Tuesday, December 5, 2006

NASCAR In New York? Not So Fast...

AP story via Yahoo! Sports:

ISC scraps plans to build NASCAR track on Staten Island

By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
December 4, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- International Speedway Corp. scrappedplans Monday to build a track on Staten Island, stalling NASCAR's dreamto bring a race to the New York area.

``While we are disappointed that we could not complete thespeedway development on Staten Island, our enthusiasm for themetropolitan New York market is in no way dampened,'' ISC presidentLesa France Kennedy said. ``We continue to view the region as a primelocation for a major motorsports facility.''

France Kennedy heads ISC, the publicly traded sister company of NASCAR-- which was founded by her grandfather and currently chaired by herbrother, Brian France

Both companies badly want to expand NASCAR into the New Yorkmetropolitan area, and moved toward that goal in 2004 when a subsidiaryof ISC paid about $100 million for a 440-acre former oil tank farm onStaten Island. The company later bought another 236 acres to gain thenecessary land for a race track.

The goal was to build a 0.8-mile state-of-the-art track thatwould have accommodated 80,000 fans and had the New York City skylineas its backdrop.

But the proposal has been met by severe resistance, includinga a hotly contested April public meeting in which tempers reacheddangerous levels -- forcing police to end the meeting over safetyconcerns.

Residents complained of traffic tie-ups and argued that thetwo major roads leading into the property would likely need majorrenovations to handle the increased loads.

Environmental concerns were also cited by opponents of the plan.

ISC's decision to call off the plan was immediately trumpeted asa ``monumental victory for the people of Staten Island,'' by New YorkCity Council Minority Leader James S. Oddo.

``For months, many a Staten Islander thought this project wasa `done deal,' `` Oddo said. ``In the end, the interests of StatenIslanders as expressed in an earnest and unwavering fashion ...prevailed.

``After all was said and done, NASCAR was simply an inappropriate fit for S.I.''

ISC cited an ``inability to secure the critical local politicalsupport that is necessary to secure the required land-use changeapprovals'' in ending the Staten Island project. In all, the companysaid spent about $150 million on the project:

-- $123 million for land and related improvements.

-- $11 million for costs related to the development of the speedway.

-- $16 million for capitalized interest and property taxes.

ISC said it may now sell the land, which it believes will beworth more than $100 million and described as the largest undevelopedacreage in the five boroughs of New York City.

The company said the decision to abandon the effort willresult in a non-cash, pretax charge results of approximately $75 to $85million, or $0.90 to $1.02 per diluted share after-tax.

France Kennedy expressed disappointment over not getting a chance to present the entire proposal to residents.

``We clearly believe that if we had been able to proceed throughthe full public process, the significant benefits this projectrepresents would have generated a more positive reaction,'' she said.

NASCAR and ISC have long targeted both the New York andPacific Northwest as areas it would like to expand into. Initial plansto build a track north of Seattle were thwarted, and ISC has sincechosen a 950-acre site across the Puget Sound in Kitsap County, Wash.

ISC hopes that funding legislation on the Washington project will be submitted sometime in January.

The New York project is now uncertain, with ISC forced to find new land and an accepting public if it plans to continue.

France Kennedy said ISC, which owns 11 major tracks and hosts more than 100 annual events, said the company would move forward.

``Due to the considerable interest and support for NASCAR racingin the region, we remain committed to the pursuit of a motorsportsentertainment facility development in the nation's number one mediamarket,'' she said. ``We believe a facility in this area represents asignificant long-term opportunity for our company, and is one componentof several broader strategic growth opportunities ahead for ISC.''

I personally find this terrific news.  At the least, this will keep Martinsville on the schedule for several more years as I had it on pretty good authority they would lose a date and possibly both.  The fact that the France family has been so adamant about this is troubling; I think the track could have worked but not in the particular Staten Island area.  Now, where does NASCAR go?  At the moment it appears international.  The banquet belongs in NYC and maybe down the road a race will.  The sport could use growth in this area to change the minds of the people and media that still view NASCAR as rednecks racing around in circles.  One day that will happen.  This just wasn't the right project to accomplish it.

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