ISC meets, greets Kitsap community

Kitsap County got its first extended exposure to International Speedway Corp.’s local racetrack proposal this week when ISC officials conducted two public meetings at opposite ends of the county.

The delegation, led by ISC President Lesa Kennedy, spoke Wednesday at a Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which was followed by a two-phase reception at South Kitsap High School.

At the reception, which first hosted “VIPs” beginning at 3 p.m., 14 ISC employees with varied areas expertise mingled with the crowd and answered questions about all aspects of the track, what they knew about the project and what is yet to be determined.

According to ISC spokesman Stann Tate, approximately 400 people took part in the event during its five-hour duration.

Still, it was less than some attendees expected. There were several attendees who came expecting to participate in a public forum during which ISC representatives answered questions in an open meeting.

“I expected something like a town hall meeting, where we could stand up and ask some questions,” said Christine Whitehall, a Belfair electrician. “This will define the community of Belfair. A lot of people will be affected. If we aren’t going to get to ask these questions in public, then I’m wasting my time.”

“They avoid controversial subjects in this format,” said Indianola activist Charlie Burrow, whose Freedom of Information Act requests have called the racetrack advocates’ methods into question. “There is not a lot of depth to what they are telling us here.”

ISC, however, never promised anything more than a “meet and greet.”

“We always planned to do it this way at first,” said ISC Vice President Grant Lynch. “This is the best way to get our message across.”

There was a lot of random information from different sources. For instance, NASCAR tickets can cost from $190 to $340 each, but most are sold to season ticketholders.

Also, about 40 percent of race fans are women.

ISC and NASCAR are not synonymous; ISC owns the facilities while NASCAR is a tenant. Not all racetrack events will carry the NASCAR label. While many racecars now use environmentally unfriendly leaded gasoline, by the time Kitsap track opened the races would have switched entirely to ethanol.

Lynch said there was no shortage of critical questions, mostly concerning traffic and funding issues.

Many of these questions were answered by ISC General Counsel Matt Rearden, who suggested that racetrack traffic will only take a few hours to run its course. And the options are wide open.

Route 3, the main artery, he said, could be reconfigured to use the shoulders to accommodate the increased traffic. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, it could be repaved and widened with ISC footing a considerable percentage of the cost.

“There are a lot of different things we can do with traffic,” Rearden said. “Right now, everything is open to discussion.”

One of the most common questions have to do with the amount of public funding

into the track and where it originates. Racetrack supporters have maintained the money will be raised with a bond issue and will not require any new taxes.

While Rearden said the ISC contribution would be substantial, he sad it would not pick up the entire tab.

“These days, sports facilities are built with public/private partnerships — unless you are in New York,” he said. “This will have a significant impact on the community. It will bring in a lot of money. But that money won’t come into the community without us.”

While 30 to 40 percent of race attendees could qualify as “local” — originating from the Seattle area — ISC reports that many attendees travel eight to 10 hours for a race.

Kennedy said there are 11,000 season ticketholders in the Northwest region, who provide the basis for the new track’s 80,000 potential spectators.

This signals an increased need for hospitality services. And Ken Haines, whose family owns property adjacent to Route 3, says he intends to build a hotel.

“I’d love for them to do this,” Haines said of the project. “It’s been really hard to get infrastructure improvements on the local roads. This will help us get these things done.”

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