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BRANT MOTORSPORTS Grant set for track study



Published: Tue, April 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



If built, the track would be near the airport.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

VIENNA -- A $370,000 study would once and for all determine the viability of a proposed $300 million indoor racetrack.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, a supporter of the racetrack proposal, said the $185,000 local 50 percent match to a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant is in place, and hopefully the study will begin shortly.

Ryan and other officials involved with the proposed Mahoning Valley Motor Speedway held a press conference Monday to discuss the project and the study.

If the study shows the indoor speedway -- if built, it would be the first of its kind -- is a viable project, the process will move forward, said Ryan, D-17th. If the study indicates the project isn't doable, the speedway will not be built, he said.

Ryan successfully got up to $300,000 for the study into the federal EDA reauthorization bill enacted last year. The legislation called for a 50 percent local match. For the past six months, Ryan and others have sought money for the local match.

The racetrack, proposed by Brant Motorsports of Morganstown, W. Va., would be located at an undetermined location near the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

Lingering questions

While Ryan, Brant and other racetrack supporters praised the proposal, there are many questions they can't answer.

The supporters don't know where the $300 million would come from, they didn't know when the study would begin or how long it would take, who would conduct the study, the site of the racetrack or who would own the facility.

Rick Schiraldi, chairman of the Mahoning Valley Motorsports Task Force and a partner in the Cohen and Co. accounting firm, said once his group -- which is spearheading the racetrack proposal -- hires experts to conduct the study, all the questions will be answered.

The federal funding will take at least a few months to obtain, and the EDA must give approval to at least a pre-application before the study can begin, Schiraldi said. A formal application for the money also would be needed to get the federal dollars, he said.

Ryan said his office is in contact with the EDA, and there is a possibility the study could begin soon. But he wouldn't commit to a definitive date.

Bob Brant, president of Brant Motorsports, said the track would be built to initially seat 60,000, and be expandable to seat 120,000 people.

Funding

Brant wants the project to be funded from a mix of private and public entities. Brant said his company has spent more than $4 million on the indoor racetrack concept.

Brant's company is giving more than $50,000 for the study. Also, the state and the Western Reserve Port Authority, which operates the airport, are each contributing $40,000.

Others helping to fund the study include Trumbull 100, Western Reserve Building Trades and the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

An initial $60,000 study, with the cost split between Mahoning and Trumbull county commissioners, conducted about 2 1/2 years ago determined the racetrack idea had merit, despite questions not answered about the noise and the ventilation of an indoor racetrack. Critics point to those two issues as reasons why the facility won't work. Brant said studies his company conducted show those two issues aren't problems.

This second study would follow up on the analysis of the first study and do a more detailed demographic analysis, would determine the best site location, address the noise and ventilation issues, determine financing alternatives and what agency would own the facility, Schiraldi said.

The task force would hire a company or companies to conduct the study, he said.

Ryan, Brant and others mentioned the delays in getting the study conducted, but say now things are heading in the right direction.

"I'm confident the feasibility of this facility will be evident after the study," Brant said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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