Richard Petty Driving Experience coming to SPARC track

Add NASCAR driving legend Richard Petty to the starting lineup at developer Bill Schottenstein’s Sports Pavilion and Automotive Research Center, better known as SPARC near Columbus.

The Richard Petty Driving Experience will offer its motorsports driving academy as a partner and tenant in the transformation of the Cooper Stadium site into an auto-themed complex.

That project has already signed Michael Waltrip Racing as a partner and the Midwestern Auto Group dealership as a tenant.

Petty Holdings LLC CEO Brian Flynn cited SPARC’s visibility and ease of access to the Central Ohio region as an opportunity to reach an untapped market.

“We view SPARC’s location … as an ideal place to showcase (our) various motorsports and performance-driving programs," Flynn said in a news release. “Being situated in the middle of almost 2.4 million people … it is ideally suited to draw tens of thousands of visitors who are seeking to satisfy their need for speed."

Schottenstein told me the business is “not just driving a car fast."

“There’s an educational aspect to their programming," Schottenstein said, calling Richard Petty Driving “a full-blown driving school" with classes for teens, emergency first-responders and those in the general public hoping to improve their skills.

The developer in late April began demolishing part of the old stadium as it moves toward construction of SPARC, which features a paved half-mile track for racing and testing, an automotive research and technical training center, automotive retail space, on-site lodging facilities, conference centers and exhibition spaces.

“I believe (Richard Petty Driving) is the best of breed in that category," he said. “Like a retail center, you have to have the proper tenant mix."

Construction should begin later this year. Depending upon the weather, SPARC will open in late 2015 or early 2016. Schottenstein hinted other tenants could get named in the next few weeks.

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