Aurora official wants voters to allow incentives for Denver track

A city councilman wants to make it easier for a NASCAR racetrack to be built in Aurora once the economy turns around.

Councilman Bob FitzGerald wants voters to repeal a 1999 ballot initiative that stops the city from offering incentives to racetrack developers.

He had planned to introduce the measure at a City Council committee this week for discussion, but the proposal was kicked back to the Aurora Economic Development Council for review.

The City Council will decide whether to ask voters to undo the measure that stopped the city from offering incentives to Penske Motorsports, which wanted to build at E-470 and Interstate 70. In 2004, a plan was floated — but failed — to undo the ban.

This time around, FitzGerald said, there would be interest in a big-time racetrack because of the revenue it would generate.

"We want to get rid of that," FitzGerald said of the incentives ban. "If we do it now, people will see the value of a racetrack should the economy bounce back in three or four years."

The International Speedway Corp., which owns and operates numerous NASCAR tracks across the country, announced in 2007 its intent to build a racetrack in the Denver area.

Aurora became one of the likely candidates, with a parcel near the High Point development in far north Aurora near Denver International Airport and another east of that site.

A location in Commerce City also was in play, until residents complained about potential traffic, noise and other issues.

ISC officials have put the brakes on a track, saying the downturn in the economy did not make having one in the Denver area financially viable.

NASCAR has suffered in recent years, losing races and sponsors even as it envisioned expanding its series into the Rocky Mountain region.

Although there are no plans for a metro track in the immediate future, ISC spokesman Charles Talbert would not rule it out down the road.

"We think that market is a strong sports market that is definitely underserved for NASCAR events," Talbert said.

He said that if a track is built, it would be only through a public/private partnership "to make it economically feasible to build a major sports facility."

That likely would mean tax incentives. Plus, any city that lands it would build the required infrastructure for the sports facility.

Aurora already is seeking $85.4 million in state sales-tax subsidies for a proposed 1,500-room Gaylord hotel complex. The city also is giving the Nashville, Tenn.-based company incentives worth up to $300 million.

FitzGerald noted that the High Point site suggested for the track is about 3 miles from the proposed Gaylord resort, making the combination a good pairing should both come to fruition. Denver Post

Leave a Reply