Speedway — Missed Opportunity or Bullet Dodged?September 14th, 2010 by Steven Gardner
As we look at what’s going in at the South Kitsap Industrial Area, the New York Times has a story about a number of publicly financed stadiums that get demolished before the bills are all paid off. The Kingdome is in there. The story is mostly about Giants Stadium in New Jersey. The piece begins:
It’s the gift that keeps on taking. The old Giants Stadium, demolished to make way for New Meadowlands Stadium, still carries about $110 million in debt, or nearly $13 for every New Jersey resident, even though it is now a parking lot.
The reasons are complex and you might argue that comparing what New Jersey did with the Meadowlands to what International Speedway Corp. wanted to do in parts of SKIA is a faulty activity. Had ISC’s projections been correct about the number of people coming to Washington who otherwise would not have come here, then it is possible that a speedway could have been built without adding any additional tax burden on anyone in Washington.
For perspective on how NASCAR is doing, an ESPN column by Terry Blount provides an interesting assessment of how NASCAR schedules are made and what influences them. International Speedway Corp., the company that was going to sink millions into a track here, wants to shrink its workforce and other expenses. The sport is hurting from lower attendance. On the other hand and from a purely Northwest-selfish perspective, the article also points out ISC’s muscle in terms of scheduling. It’s unlikely the company would build a track and not have it host races. Given the scheduling shifts going on for 2011, you could rightly wonder how many people would show up here if we had races. It’s all the more interesting because 2011 would have been the year the track would have been ready.
The speedway’s possible economic benefit still has its former supporters bringing the idea up when, say, Chris Endresen gets appointed to the Puget Sound Regional Council and has as one of her responsibilities economic development. Endresen, as county commissioner, was tough on the track.
The Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal scoffed at the idea of Endresen’s new appointment, writing:
Endresen’s active opposition to NASCAR, which would have created hundreds of local unionized construction jobs — jobs which would be contributing heavily to our local economy at this point in the recession — as well as about 50 permanent jobs, was the overriding theme of local businesspeople contacted to comment for this story. Most didn’t want to be quoted, but all were vitriolic off the record, with several laughing out loud and asking if it was a joke.
You see, the recession we’re in gets used in arguments for and against the track. Those against it say NASCAR’s lagging attendance and its fans’ increasing willingness to be more budget conscious show that making any gamble involving public money a bad bet. Those who support it say at least now there would have been high-paying jobs going on right now at a time when such a reality would certainly be welcome.
It’s old news, and this question is likely to come up again, but I’m still interested in your thoughts. Did we turn down a golden goose, or did we wisely reject a deal with the devil? Have any of you changed your mind since we had this discussion three years ago?
Vote in the poll and leave your comments here if you like.