Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Speedway pitches bid for NASCAR museum

August 24, 2005

Top NASCAR officials visiting Kansas City last week made no secret of their reaction to the area's proposal to build a $110 million NASCAR Hall of Fame near Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County.

Racing officials on Aug. 18 were in Kansas for a one-day tour of the area and its proposed hall of fame site. They also viewed a formal presentation of the plans and met with government officials, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Unified Government Mayor/CEO Joe Reardon.

"It is a proposal that everyone could be proud of," NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne said. "Particularly for us what stands out is the entire design of the facility."

This week a group of NASCAR executives, including Pyne, wrapped up their tour of the five finalist cities vying to land the NASCAR Hall of Fame in their communities. In addition to the Kansas City, Kan., proposal, racing officials are considering bids from Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Daytona, Fla., and Richmond, Va.

Racing officials will consider factors such as location, an area's connection to the sport, opportunities to extend the NASCAR brand and the nuts and bolts of each specific site when reaching their decision, Pyne said.

The four other finalist cities are located in the Southeast, an area tied to the sports heritage and home to its oldest fan base. However, Pyne called Kansas City "the gateway to the United States," and said the area's central location as well as the proposed site's proximity to the booming Village West district and interstate highways 435 and 70 are strengths of the proposal.

During a meeting with reporters Pyne did not discuss specifically how the Kansas City proposal stacks up in comparison to the other four bids. However, when asked point-blank whether he had seen and heard enough Thursday to feel comfortable with building the hall of fame in Wyandotte County, he answered in the affirmative.

"Absolutely," he said. "But I think it is going to be tough for us. We had a lot of great proposals and nobody is disqualified yet."

After meeting with NASCAR officials, Kansas Speedway President Jeff Boerger said he was pleased with how the day went and the area's chances.

"They have a very hard job (in selecting the location)," Boerger said. "But I am confident we have the winning proposal."

The area began its courtship with NASCAR officials back in January when the city was asked to submit a bid. Earlier this summer, Kansas City and the four competing markets were announced as finalist cities.

As far as plans for the hall itself go, the signature design piece would be a massive 60-foot tall, 400-foot long wall featuring historic stock cars stacked one on top of the other like a Matchbox toy car display case. Plans also call for a gigantic video display wall, interactive racing rides that would allow fans to get behind wheel of a race car and trade paint at top speeds. The hall of fame would also feature hologram likenesses of celebrated drivers.

Members of the local team pushing for the hall of fame include Kansas City Area Development Council, Boerger and area racing officials and area business leaders. Additionally Sebelius, Reardon and other government leaders have been close to the proposal and involved with recruiting the hall of fame to the area.

Reardon said landing the hall of fame at the doorstep of Village West near the speedway would generate as much as $50 million to $65 million in annual revenues for the area and lure about 700,000 visitors to the racing shrine.

Although the proposal will require an investment of more than $100 million, Reardon said the hall of fame would not cost taxpayers anything. However, he declined to discuss how exactly the project will be funded. He did note that STAR Bond legislation, the method for funding Kansas Speedway, still is on the table and suggested that a mix of private business and government funding could be tapped.

However, all of that will be put on hold until the NASCAR team retreats to its headquarters to discuss the proposals with its board of directors. NASCAR plans to announce the location of its hall of fame before the year's end, Pyne said.

"I would say it's going to be a very hard decision," he said. "All of the proposals have been very good."

The general consensus Thursday was that the winning city will be the one packing the bid that offers NASCAR fans and the future of racing the most.

"The big winners here are going to be NASCAR fans," Pyne said. "There is no question they will have benefit of one of the best if not the best hall of fame experiences in America."

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