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MAHONING VALLEY It's not on a fast track, but officials seek racing facility



Published: Tue, January 15, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Public money may be necessary to build the track.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties have approved spending $60,000 to study the feasibility of constructing an indoor NASCAR track, likely near Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

"We are just exploring the possibility," said Trumbull Commissioner Michael O'Brien. "This is a very first step -- almost a baby step."

The indoor track, billed by its developers as the first of its kind in the world, had been planned since 1999 for 145 acres near Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, with Brant Motorsports of Morgantown, W.Va., financing the entire project privately.

Stalled: However, construction of the $400 million facility was sidetracked by FAA and environmental regulations, and it stalled last month when Allegheny County showed "significantly less enthusiasm for the project" if it had to contribute money, according to a statement on the company's Web site.

Brant Motorsports needed $60 million to $80 million in public funding to get the track built, news reports say.

A contract giving Brant Motorsports the exclusive right to develop land near the Pittsburgh airport expired at the end of last year.

The company has not returned several phone calls over the last week.

"If the feasibility study shows it is a workable project, then we can look to serious negotiations," said Gary Kubic, Mahoning County administrator. "Otherwise, it is a moot point."

Kubic said Mahoning County's contribution for the $60,000 study was taken from county funds allocated to the Western Reserve Port Authority, but never spent. The port authority runs the local airport on behalf of Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Study: The study approved by Trumbull commissioners Monday will be conducted by Public Financial Management in Cleveland on behalf of the port authority. It is expected to take 30 to 45 days to complete, said Joseph Angelo Jr., a Trumbull commissioner.

Brant's plan is for a mile-long oval track with seating for more than 65,000 under a 40-acre roof. On off-race days, aircraft exhibitions, industrial trade shows and concerts could be held at the track, according to the Web site.

It would probably require state and county money to get the track built here, said James Tsagaris, a Trumbull County commissioner.

"I hope we have it built before the convocation center in Youngstown," he said.

siff@vindy.com




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