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Former Smelter Intrigues NASCAR

by Jon Bell
Portland Tribune, March 4, 2005

Local NASCAR promoters looking for ways to fuel the region's economic engine checked out the old Reynolds Aluminum smelter in Troutdale this week as a potential site for a 75,000-seat NASCAR facility.

And despite issues with overhead power lines, the land's high-water table and, of course, the finances required to bring a NASCAR track to town, the site remains on the list of prospective homes for a Northwest NASCAR track.

"I thought it was an excellent visit that showed me the whole area," said Grant Lynch, vice president of Florida-based International Speedway Corp., the Florida racetrack developer looking to build a NASCAR track in the Pacific Northwest. "I think it does have some issues, but I haven't seen a site that doesn't."

Lynch toured the 700-acre site with representatives from the Port of Portland, which owns the land, as well as local supporters. Eric Hedaa, spokesman for the port, said the tour was simply to field questions about the land, which is undergoing a two-year environmental cleanup. The site sits close to the Sandy River and is separated from the Columbia River by a levee.

The port's first plans, he said, are to develop a 100-acre industrial park on the site, because a NASCAR track doesn't necessarily complement the port's transportation mission. Hedaa added, however, that should solid community and governmental support rally around a racetrack, the port would be willing to work with all parties.

"We're not going to develop it, but we're not going to be a roadblock, either," he said.

In addition to Monday's tour, Grant met with Troutdale and Gresham officials, House Majority Leader Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village; Ron Fox, manager of the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department's Business Development Division; and Rob Fussell, Multnomah County economic development liaison, to talk about NASCAR in Oregon.

"Of course if it's good economic development, we'd love to have it here in Oregon," Fussell said. "The important part of these projects coming to pass is the public financing part, and it's that part that we're trying to understand in the context of Oregon's capabilities."

Last year, a deal between International Speedway Corp. and officials in Marysville and Snohomish County, Wash., fell apart. The company had offered to invest $50 million of the $300 million needed to build the track.

Lynch said overall project costs, as well as land and other factors, all help determine public and private investment percentages.

International Speedway also is considering several sites in Washington, as well as one in Scappoose and at least one other in Oregon. Lynch said no timeline has been set for choosing a site, and though he wouldn't comment on other Oregon prospects, areas near Brooks and Woodburn have been mentioned before.

"I think they're going to really assess this and figure out exactly the right spot and take whatever time's needed," said Terry Smoke, the owner of the Troutdale General Store who's been working to attract NASCAR to the Troutdale site.

Jon Bell
Former Smelter Intrigues NASCAR
Portland Tribune, March 4, 2005

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