Daily & Internet
Charlotte Leads in Hall of Fame Ballot
Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer
FONTANA, Calif. – As the race for NASCAR’s Hall
of Fame heads into the home stretch, Charlotte is the leading
candidate to land the $100 million-plus shrine to stock car
racing, several sources told the Observer on Sunday.
Two high-ranking NASCAR officials and two Nextel Cup team owners,
all speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Charlotte's
selection was nearly certain.
Final details must be
worked out before any announcement, the sources said.
Charlotte has been competing
with four other cities since last year to host the project,
which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors
a year. In January, NASCAR eliminated Kansas City and Richmond,
Va. as candidates, leaving Charlotte, Atlanta and Daytona Beach,
A NASCAR spokesman maintained
Sunday the selection process was not complete.
“The process is
still evolving. We continue to receive additional information regarding each
of the three cities’ proposals and the decision-making process is still
active,” said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp.
Tharp reiterated that NASCAR plans to decide by the end of
Mayor Pat McCrory and other city leaders would not confirm
or comment on the news Sunday. It was unclear whether any city
officials have recently discussed details of their bid or negotiated
The Charlotte City Council has had several closed-door meetings
on economic development issues in recent weeks, including a
two-hour session Feb. 13 and one before last week's zoning
meeting. Another private session is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“I continue to have confidence in the proposal that we initially submitted,
and I will comment no further,” McCrory said.
The proposal calls for a $137.5.million building on city-owned
land just across Brevard Street from the Convention Center.
The building, which would include a new convention center ballroom,
would be designed with banked curves resembling a NASCAR track.
It would be paid for largely through a 2 percentage point increase
in Mecklenburg County's tax on hotel rooms, as well as contributions
from state government and local companies. All but $15 million
would be public money.
City officials released most of its initial bid to the Observer
last summer, but withheld a portion known as the “pro
forma” that projected the long-term expenses and operating
budget for the hall.
Related documents, however, showed that the city would operate
the hall and pay the bulk of construction costs, while NASCAR
would get payments for the use of its name and merchandise.
Using the slogan “Racing was built here. Racing belongs
here,” city leaders and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce
launched a high-profile pitch to win the shrine. They touted
the city's built-in fan base, financial plan and proximity
to race teams. The city is home to 90 percent of NASCAR’s
Atlanta is largely seen as Charlotte’s biggest competitor,
mainly because its regional population is more than triple
that of Charlotte, its residents have more disposable income
and it attracts more tourists. But Charlotte has a strong financial
bid, with heavy backing from state legislators.
Critics say Charlotte is offering too much for an attraction
that will mainly pay off for NASCAR.
A study by UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton estimated
the hall would generate $62 million annually for the Mecklenburg
economy and support 748 new tourism-related jobs.
Landing the hall also would bolster Charlotte's status as the
center of the sport, and – officials hope – keep
the annual all-star race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.