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Charlotte Wins NASCAR Hall

Source: Charlotte Observer  

March 06, 2006

Plan adds office tower uptown for NASCAR, adds $17 million in costs

Charlotte is getting the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and plans released today show provisions for a new office tower and an additional $17 million in costs.

"In the end, you look at what's going to be best in the long run," NASCAR chairman Brian France told a crowd of about 1,000 people at the city's convention center. "I'm happy to tell you today the NASCAR Hall of Fame is going to be right here in Charlotte, N.C."

NASCAR will get city land on the Hall of Fame site off Brevard Street for $1 per year, plus $4 million in city money toward parking spaces for the 300,000 square foot office building, city and NASCAR officials told the Observer in an exclusive interview before this afternoon's announcement.

The new building would include NASCAR's licensing office and become the home of the sport's media operations. NASCAR's headquarters would remain in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The hall of fame, at the corner of Second and Brevard streets, could open as soon as 2009. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which will operate the building, will start hiring the hall's top employees soon.

Monday's decision ended a year-long race. Charlotte won over Atlanta, Daytona Beach, Kansas City and Richmond.

Also, after weeks and months of secrecy, city officials unveiled an updated deal with NASCAR and a 300-page contract slated for City Council approval tonight.

The city council discussion and vote will be broadcast live on Channel 16, the government channel, beginning at 6 p.m.

The contract was unavailable until shortly before the 4 p.m. announcement.

Asked to explain the rush, Mayor Pat McCrory said: "We've been working on this for a very, very long time, and we want to begin the process of construction and marketing as soon as possible."

The contract locks the Hall of Fame in Charlotte through 2038 and provides for annual royalty payments to NASCAR.

The updated deal brings the total cost of the hall to $154.5 million, up from $137.5 million. The difference, officials said, is because of increasing construction costs.

The extra money comes mostly from borrowing over a longer period and stretching the city's estimates of how much money a new 2 percent tax on hotel rooms would generate.

The deal also includes financing from Wachovia and Bank of America, which both provided below-market interest rates and promised to absorb any losses if corporate sponsorships and the sale of state-owned land come up short in repaying those loans.

Mark Dyer, NASCAR's vice president of licensing, said Charlotte won the hall of fame because of several advantages: a bid full of locked-down public money, a sparkling downtown location, support among top drivers and proximity to most race teams.

Those teams will become the center of the hall's marketing effort, an attempt to lure fans to spend several days -- and plenty of money -- in "NASCAR Valley."

"Charlotte did a great job of maximizing the inherent advantage it had, in that the industry basically (is) based here," Dyer said.