Track numbers firm up

Great Western Sports (GWS) on Wednesday revealed its formula for the public/private partnership arrangement by which it hopes to finance construction of a NASCAR racetrack in Kitsap County, proposing an even split between the two entities.

The funding package for the project, estimated to cost $345 million, calls for $166 million from the corporation with a like amount to be raised from the sale of bonds, which the state would guarantee.

The remaining $13 million — 4 percent of the total pricetag — will come from sales tax bonds that will be paid off from gate receipts.

Since the public portion would be paid through sales tax bonds, GWS is able to claim the project would not require any new taxes. Nor would the funds come directly from residents’ pockets.

GWS also said it would cover any cost overruns beyond the projected $345 construction costs.

“Historically, this is the most balanced public/private partnership ever presented to the state of Washington,” said International Speedway Corp. (ISC) Vice President Grant Lynch. “We will build a world-class speedway that will be the most scenic racetrack in the country.”

Lynch acknowledges the particulars of the proposal could still change.

“This is not a done deal. It’s just a proposal,” he said.

The proposal had been anxiously awaited for months and will determine for many of those involved in the project whether they will support or oppose it.

North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen, for example, said, “I’m generally opposed to public/private funding for private facilities.”

During the waiting period for the proposal, the idea earned endorsements from the Port Orchard and Bremerton Chambers of Commerce, as well as the Kitsap County Visitors & Convention Bureau.

“I’m glad to finally have some meat, something where I can evaluate the benefits,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said she had not read the full proposal as of Thursday afternoon, but noted she was “pleased to see that the project will always have a positive cash flow.”

On a scale of one to 10, Angel characterized her enthusiam for the project as a seven, while Lent gave herself a five.

Endresen refused to categorize her support numerically.

The racetrack is proposed for a 950-acre plot near the Bremerton Airport.

The next step for ISC is to find a legislative sponsor to introduce a bill to begin the bonding process.

Kitsap County officials say they’re not far enough along in the evaulation process to comment on the track’s chances, but most said they did not expect the matter would be presented to the public for a vote.

While any venture requires a risk, GSC is making the following guarantees:

• the company would host at least two major events each year;

• the company would attempt to secure the NASCAR Nextel Cup or another comparable event, and would not move the event elsewhere for 25 years; and,

• the company would not construct a competing racetrack within 500 miles of this facility.

Additionally, the racetrack sponsors would commit to a 75-year-lease.

“We want to be your partners for a long, long time,” Lynch said.

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