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Speedway Events Rev Up Inland Empire Economy

October 09, 2003|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

Roger Penske built it, the France family's International Speedway Corp. runs it, but the biggest beneficiaries of California Speedway may be the citizens of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Motor races and other related events at the Fontana facility will generate $135.7 million and 1,215 jobs in the area this year, according to an economic impact study by economist Dr. John B. Husing and his Economics and Politics Inc. Of that figure, the NASCAR Winston Cup race in April accounted for $84.7 million.

"What was a dilapidated steel mill that was dead land has been turned into a gold mine for the area," Husing said Tuesday at an Inland Empire Economic Partnership breakfast at the San Bernardino Hilton. "And next year it will be twice as good."

That is because NASCAR has allocated a second Nextel (now Winston) Cup race for the track next year. The speedway's inaugural night race, to be held on Labor Day weekend, could hike the total economic impact to approximately $220 million.

In 1994, three years before the track opened, Husing made a similar study in which he predicted that the Speedway would reach $136 million in economic impact with 1,360 jobs.

"He hit it just about exact, but the estimate was based on two NASCAR races at the time, so actually the impact on the area is much greater because that figure was reached with only one race," said Bill Miller, Speedway president. "We also expected to have the track busy only 50 days a year. This year it will be in rental use about 290 days, in addition to the race weekends."

San Bernardino County receives approximately $4.2 million in taxes from the track and business it generates, Husing estimated. Property taxes, which were $100,000 from land valued at $10 million as a decaying steel mill, are now $2 million from a land value of $200 million.

Sales taxes -- from meals, souvenirs, fuel and other retail spending by fans and crews that total $23.3 million -- generates an additional $232,544 for the county. And California Speedway directly pays $216,307 more a year in sales taxes from its own purchases.

"None of this income would be forthcoming without the speedway being built," Husing said. "This was a blighted area, and our income projections today do not include the improvement and development of the land area immediately surrounding the track." In addition to the two Nextel Cup races next year, the speedway schedule includes events for the Indy Racing League, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), AMA superbikes, Grand American sports cars and a Historic Sports Car Festival.

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