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Racing proposal remains on track



Published: Sat, August 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



One big race could pump $100 million into the local economy, a consultant says.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

VIENNA -- Even if it never hosts a NASCAR event, the 40-acre indoor racetrack proposed for the Mahoning Valley could run in the black, developer Bob Brant says.

"Financial models work whether or not a major racing event ever comes," said Brant, vice president of Brant Motorsports of Morganstown, W.Va.

"A major racing event would be a home run, but the financial models work either way."

There is no guarantee the premiere racing franchise would make room in an already full schedule to accommodate a Trumbull County track.

Brant said an indoor track -- the first of its kind -- has distinct advantages in these days of televised racing: It could offer on-schedule evening racing with never a rain delay.

"It will get a lot of attention for events out there," he said.

Brant's vision is to have 30 to 40 races a year at his indoor racetrack, then keep the doors open an additional 170 or so days with boat, recreational vehicle and heavy equipment shows.

With Richard Childress Racing, Brant Motorsports sponsors the #21 Rockwell Automation Chevy in the Bush Grand National series.

Cost not determined

Brant said it was too early to discuss the cost of building the track at a spot near Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, or how much taxpayers would be asked to pitch in.

The cost was $400 million when the project was planned at a spot near the Pittsburgh International Airport. It fell through after Allegheny County officials balked when their portion of the costs escalated to $100 million.

The only location now being considered is Trumbull County, which benefits from its location between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Brant said. Construction costs are expected to be lower here because the ground is flat.

"Everyone I've talked to up there has been excited about it," he said.

Members of the Western Reserve Port Authority board and commissioners from Mahoning and Trumbull counties were presented with a consultants analysis of Brant's business plan during a two-hour closed-door session Thursday.

Individual big races in other cities pump $90 million to $100 million into local economies, said Stephen Szanto, senior managing consultant for the consulting company, Public Financial Management of Cleveland. Officials hope the indoor track could do the same thing here.

Both counties contributed $30,000 for the study of Brant's proposal. The study is expected to be released to the public in a few weeks.

Local officials' views

"If anything develops out of it, that's great; if not, we have a very detailed study about how to develop something to bring people to our area, especially around the airport," said Ed Reese, a Mahoning County commissioner.

Public financing for the project has not been discussed, said Reid Dulberger, president of the port authority board.

Officials declined to talk in detail about what they learned, but Trumbull Commissioner James Tsagaris said it bodes well for the project.

"I liked the presentation," he said. "You have to realize, we have never had anything really big here. We don't know how big this thing is. That's why we have to rely on consultants."

He said the racetrack is at least another study or two from getting official backing.

siff@vindy.com




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