NASCAR, airport work to co-exist

While International Speedway Corp. (ISC) keeps the entire county waiting in anticipation of its racetrack proposal, the issues surrounding the Bremerton National Airport could become a key part of the decision.

“Since we haven’t seen the proposal, we don’t know whether it will be a good deal or a bad deal,” said Port of Bremerton Commissioner Bill Mahan. “As for the airport, it depends on what the proposal says. If it requires a local business to shut down for a month, then we would take a serious look as to whether we would support it or not.”

North Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen has also said that she would not support the NASCAR track if it had a negative effect on the airport’s growth.

According to ISC spokesman Stann Tate, it will be several months before the company submits its proposal.

With respect to the airport, the most important issue is the proximity of the stands to the runways. Federal Aviation Administration regulations established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks required airports within a certain distance of a large public assembly to close down during that event.

Fred Salisbury, director of airport and industrial operations, said that two racing days a year would not cause a great inconvenience.

A NASCAR facility also usually increases airport traffic and business considerably even with the imposition of some blackout times.

The practice of establishing Temporary Flight Restrictions existed prior to Sept. 11 but has been refined since then. A TFR represents an area three miles and 3,000 feet from the event, through which no planes are permitted from one hour before to one hour after the event.

TFRs are established according to the event’s expected attendance. The FAA does not disclose the level at which it establishes a restriction.

Pilots would be required to check for TFRs before taking off. The airport’s air traffic control staff has the option of allowing specific planes to take off or land.

Further, TFRs do not restrict law enforcement aircraft.

Since the ISC plan has yet to be disclosed, Salisbury cannot say how it will affect the airport’s own five-year plan.

One aspect of that plan is to relocate the racing events that have been held on the airport’s spare runway since 1955. Doing so will promote airport growth since it will press a previously unavailable runway into service.

Those most concerned about the process and its implications are the pilots. Don Dicksion, vice president of the local pilots and tenants association, alerted the board of commissioners in April of the situation, and has not been able to assemble any solid information since then.

“The formal process hasn’t started,” he said. “But the informal process has been like a runaway freight train.”

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