Sunday, May 15, 2011

Editorial: "Doubting the Wisdom of North Metro Racetrack Proposal"

Editorial piece Printed in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 13, 2011

North metro residents face another ill-conceived development plan. The Vikings stadium rummages just south of us. The Anoka County Airport is in hibernation. The latest project is a drag strip/race track proposal put forth by James Farnum and his IMEDC organization. 

All three could devour our property values, tax revenues and quality of life. 

Recently the Lino Lakes and Columbus city councils were both provided a presentation by IMEDC promoters who were previously sent away from Arden Hills (in 2009) and Big Lake (in 2010). All these attempts revealed a few issues the promoters could not answer for, such as a noise study, traffic concerns, and most importantly, proof of financial backing. 

If the racetrack plan proceeds there are two possible outcomes. 

First, the enterprise could fail once built. Track infrastructure costs would include two freeway entrance ramps at $30 million each. Someone would have to pay for a sewer main, since sewer service is nowhere near the current location. Many improvements would also have to be made on Anoka County roads. We could be stuck with a boondoggle of ongoing costs for an empty parking lot with trees growing through the cracks, Ã la the Hudson dog track that closed in 2001 and sits empty to this day. 

Second, the plan could "succeed." The developers claim it may add 120,000 fans every weekend of summer to a road system already overwhelmed by scarce funds and increased traffic, a system that will be "insufficient" by 2030 according to the 2008 I-35E Alternative Urban Area wide Review Study. And that's without the race track. 

The track's success, as defined by IMEDC, is contingent upon NASCAR certification - not a sure thing. Even certification may not be the success IMEDC dreams of, because NASCAR revenues have been falling for years.

- Race track total project cost, $432 million (Lino Lakes City Council Packet 8/23/2010).

- To date IMEDC has not provided the names and dollar amounts of any backers, nor an economic impact study, marketing study, or business plan to any city it has approached.

- Minnesota currently has 26 speedways (, 2/08/2011). 

- A race track is not in Lino Lakes Comprehensive Plan. 

- NASCAR TV viewership; 7.85 million per race in 2006, 5.99 million in 2010, a 24 percent decrease in viewership. (Sports Business Journal, 11/29/2010). 

- International Speedway Corp., the largest track operator, had a 19 percent revenue decline from 2006 to 2010 ( 

- A NASCAR track is as loud as a jet engine - 120 db (Schneider, (AOL News, 8/17/2010). 

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