Opinion

How’s that NASCAR outcome looking now?

In November I was visiting family in New Hampshire and had a chance to catch up on some local news there.

A bit of news I ran across while also sampling doughnuts was relevant to Kitsap County and actually all of Washington state. In looking back through the year of local reporting and what I had read, there seems to be some closure or updating required regarding one particular local news tidbit here at home.

An April 6 article in the Independent headlined “NASCAR leaves Kitsap in the dust” named two elected officials — South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel and Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman — as openly supporting government involvement in the development of a race track.

This project would have brought to Kitsap a business that operates now as International Speedway Corp. in the role of a tenant.

The landlords, however, needed financing to develop and build the tenants their track.

Whatever form the landlord entity would take, it became clear that a government-business relationship was proposed in order to realize a bountiful return.

In Louden, N.H., 75 percent of the 100,000 New Hampshire International Speedway race day attendees are from outside that state. New Hampshire has no sales tax, and attendees spend an average of $225 per person.

This sports venue is big business. Anyone here in Kitsap who says differently doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

How big is big? That can be answered. It was answered on Nov. 2, when O. Bruton Smith, who heads up a conglomerate of six existing NASCAR tracks, bought New Hampshire International Speedway from the Bahre family for what is reported to be $340 million in cash.

Let me repeat that last part: Speedway Motorsports Inc. paid in cash.

This deal really got fired up after April. So from April on, many folks in New Hampshire started to become worried that there might be the possibility that one if not both of the NEXTEL Cup races held there since 1997 would now be moved to the Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s Las Vegas track.

There are concerns that after the 2008 season the track may have been bought just for the events.

The track has been selling its 2008 tickets so far. Will the business continue as is in New Hampshire? There are a lot of doughnut shops hoping it will.

Now, I know that Jan Angel, Cary Bozeman, International Speedway Corp. and ISC’s consultant Tim Thompson know that the proposed Kitsap track would have been no Louden, N.H. These people did raise the question why anyone would ever think to lay out this amount of cash or finance their own business development in Kitsap County or any other part of Washington state, for that matter.

Why would anyone think to build a track here like the Bahre family did in Louden?

Given the reporting about the credit markets in 2006 and into 2007 in papers like The Financial Times, smart operators would seek out financial schemes backed by taxpayers rather than some form of financial instrument three times removed from an actual over-priced Wisteria Lane.

That kind of financing could actually dry up. Oh, that’s right — it already has.

They would take this approach especially if they wanted to hold on to their own cash, if they had it. You never know when a recession might hit.

I bet a few of New Hampshire’s local Dunk’n Donut shops would have liked to propose the same deal here in Kitsap county. But for some reason I suspect they couldn’t bake it up without people wondering why their local governments are writing them out a business welfare check.

Many people would also really get toasted if the shop they did finance so generously got sold, making the grifters a bundle.

That cash deal in New Hampshire does show that the business market place can finance itself without elected officials diverting their focus from their governmental duties.

There are plenty of those to keep busy and in addition there is obviously all that governmental paperwork in giving each other raises to keep up with their own pace car sponsored by some local private concern using the trade name “taxes.”

If some of our local spenders were looking this year for a hole to throw our tax dollars into, they now have one in Port Orchard. If that isn’t “romantic” enough, next time I would prefer it to be a small, old fashioned one I could dunk in my coffee rather than someone’s huge noisy oval I would have to give up coffee to support.

Clayton Mahan is a Port Orchard resident.

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