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Racetrack numbers begin to firm up

The first substantial official information pertaining to the proposed Kitsap County racetrack was made public last week, when International Speedway Corp. released an economic and fiscal benefits analysis of the project and its effect on the local economy.

The report was prepared by Berk & Associates, a Seattle firm, at ISC’s request. Critics of the speedway idea may point to this connection to challenge the report’s objectivity but Berk principal Michael Hodgins said the accumulated data support the report’s conclusions, and that the firm would release a “technical appendix” in a few weeks to verify its findings.

“It’s understandable that people are skeptical,” he said. “But we will present all of the information and its origins. People can agree or disagree with the assumptions, but at least they will know where the information came from.”

The 25-page report is full of economic charts and graphs, along with enough background information to provide a primer about the project and its impact. The report analyzes the cash flow, pointing out that local racing fans who may travel elsewhere will now spend their money in Washington.

This, the report said, will strengthen the local economy.

“There was more detail than I expected,” said Kitsap Economic Development Council (KEDC) executive director David Porter. “With these figures, it’s clear this is a large transformational project for the state and the region. We should look at this carefully and constructively and with open minds.”

The report states an approximate facility construction cost of $330 million. The breakdown of the cost — how much will be covered by ISC and how much by public money — is for many the deciding factor in whether they will support or oppose the project.

Once constructed, the facility will generate around $139.5 million per year and $7.1 billion over a 30-year period, according to the report.

The report supported at least one ISC assertion, that having to do with the distances people will drive to attend a race.

“It surprised us to see how much people travel around and the percentage of people who come quite a long way to attend these events,” Hodgins said.

Leader International president Rick Flaherty, a racetrack supporter, was drawn to what the report did not include.

“I was incredibly impressed by the detail,” he said. “But it excluded some of the highest-impact items, like the people who stay for extended periods, the media coverage and the ancillary development. That the numbers were so high without including these things show what a substantial positive impact the project will have.”

Flahery said money from the racetrack will bring new funds into the county, rather than repetitively recycling the same dollars. The entire report is downloadable in PDF format from the ISC’s Web site, www.race2wa.com.

The appendix will be available from the same source, as will the final ISC proposal, which is expected sometime in October.

“Regardless of your view about the merits of the ISC-NASCAR project, it certainly presents this community with a compelling opportunity to choose who we are, what we want, and where we are going,” Porter said. “Whether the project eventually ends up in Kitsap County or not, it is imperative that we set the table for the kind of economic development, the kind of jobs, the kind of business climate, the kind of land use we want to have, and be known for and remembered.” 

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