Opportunties offered by track must be explored

  • By Jon Nehring
  • Saturday, May 29, 2004 9:00pm
  • Opinion

Rarely is a community faced with an opportunity to build a facility that will generate single-event annual tax revenues and economic benefits to rival or surpass the Super Bowl.

Yet that is the enviable position that the City of Marysville, Snohomish County and other key partners find themselves in as frontrunners in the International Speedway Corp.’s (ISC) efforts to site a racetrack in the untapped market of the Pacific Northwest. And, the benefits extend well beyond a single weekend of racing.

When the city, county and Snohomish County Economic Development Council chose to release to the public in April a “conceptual proposal” to build a speedway and family recreation area between Marysville and Arlington, it signaled a commitment to pursue the project through a visible, public process built on facts, and the best information available.

We on the Marysville City Council believe strongly that, based on the information we have been presented thus far and under the proper conditions, the ISC speedway and family recreation area proposal can be a winner for our community, and it merits our full attention.

In recent years, economic development has taken the pole position in Marysville’s long-term revenue and budget planning. As council members, we have opted not to take the 1 percent property tax increase for the past two years as is permitted under state law. Nor have we sought to enact new taxes. Voter-approved anti-tax initiatives have had the desired effect of causing us to live within our means. To do our best to maintain quality service levels and a sound infrastructure, however, it is difficult at best to manage with budgets that cannot keep pace with the cost of living.

A recently released economic study conducted by Berk and Associates for the Checkered Flag Task Force found that the race track would generate between $87.3 million and $121.8 million annually, $2.5 million-$4 million in state tax revenues, $3.5 million-$4.7 million in local tax revenues, with average event spending of $709 per visitor per event.

We believe that the race track can be a natural fit – socially, economically and environmentally.

It presents the most environmentally sound option for property in north Marysville, enabling the coordination of open space, greenbelts and stream enhancements and habitat restoration that could reinvigorate salmon spawning.

Another asset the racetrack would bring is broad swathes of on-grass parking around the race track facility, which would be available nearly year-round for soccer fields and playfields when not in use the two to four weekends per year when racing events are scheduled. These fields would complement our Strawberry Fields Athletic Park on 152nd Street NE, which currently is set up for three soccer fields and is due to open in the fall. The lack of fields for youth sports is a countywide problem that the racetrack grass and Strawberry Fields will help address.

As community members, we too are concerned about the impacts that a racetrack will have. If ISC selects Marysville as its next racing town, many of the key issues such as traffic, noise, parking, environment and water resources would be thoroughly addressed through a complete Environmental Impact Statement. An EIS is a required study undertaken to examine the effects on the environment that will occur if a particular action is taken, and to ensure decision makers consider those environmental impact before taking action.

On the subject of traffic and road improvements, it should not be overlooked that the road improvements and expansion that must accompany the building of a racing facility and related commercial development will see heavy usage during the two to four weekends of racing, but the other 48-50 weeks of the year it will be there as a community benefit to Arlington, the Tulalip Tribes and Smokey Point.

ISC has shown itself to be a significant community partner and “good corporate neighbor” in all the communities where it owns and operates a racetrack. For example, Daytona International Speedway in 2001-2002 provided direct and indirect financial support, funds and in-kind contributions totaling $1.2 million to more than 200 organizations, while providing public safety contributions of $159,400. Local nonprofit organizations are typically given the opportunity to run concession kiosks at the track to raise charitable contributions. Racetrack facilities are typically available for a variety of community uses, and ISC concentrates much of its purchasing on area businesses and local suppliers.

On a final note, it is important that we hear from citizens and other interested parties as we move forward in gathering information about the race track proposal.

We greatly encourage you to attend the City-Council ISC informational meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Whether you’re an opponent, a “Back the Track” NASCAR fan, or undecided but willing to keep an open mind to all the facts, our first priority is to inform you with all the facts we have to date, and to answer your questions and concerns.

There are many laps to go before ISC makes a final decision, so take your place in the driver’s seat and use this opportunity to learn as much as you can about the ISC speedway and family recreational area proposal.

Jon Nehring is mayor pro tem of the City of Marysville, and wrote this piece on behalf of the entire Marysville City Council.

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