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ISC imposes decision ‘window’

After more than a year of advocating construction of a Kitsap County NASCAR facility, International Speedway Corp. has imposed an informal deadline to drum up community and legislative support.

“As a company, we spent a lot of money last year trying to make this a reality,” said ISC Vice President Grant Lynch. “It really doesn’t make any sense to continue spending money at that rate if we have no opportunity for success.”

ISC plans a legislative work session on May 31 in Olympia to evaluate the speedway proposal, for the purpose of giving the company an opportunity to explain the proposal and its benefits to the region.

Company representatives will then answer any questions or concerns legislators may have about the project.

The meeting is expected to be a work session with the Economic Development, Agriculture and Trade Committee. Since the legislature is not in session, no action will be taken.

Additionally, racetrack proponents don’t expect the meeting to result in a groundswell of legislative support. Said racetrack supporter Rick Flaherty, “I would be surprised if any legislators come out in support of the track before the election.”

An ISC tourism document says the company intends to proceed with the effort for another 90 days “and then evaluate where we are with local, state and community support for the project.”

Lynch said the 90-day period is not a hard-and-fast designation, but is a decision making “window.” There is no fixed date at which ISC plans to pull out of the project if it does not receive an appropriate amount of support.

Soon after the beginning of this year’s session ISC announced that it would not seek legislative sponsors for the sales tax credit that is necessary for the track’s construction, but would wait until the 2007 session to do so.

A short session and an election year decreased ISC’s chance of success, according to Lynch.

During its lobbying effort, many legislators expressed the desire to talk to ISC after the session was over. The May 31 meeting will provide them with that opportunity.

Flaherty, vice president of the racetrack advocacy group The Checkered Flag Club, said he has met with several legislators, and that “most of them understand that public money will not be used.”

He added that it was hypocritical for some legislators to oppose the racetrack because of the use of public funds and then advocate state support for Seattle’s Key Arena.

Flaherty claims his group has talked to 10,000 people, with 80 percent supporting the track to some degree. He doesn’t expect ISC to bail out of the proposal

“I think they are stymied by the reaction,” Flaherty said of ISC. “Most states have rolled out the red carpet when they get a proposal like this. And it all has to do with corporate economics, how much money you can throw at something without getting a return.”

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