By admin | April 23, 2012
By Richard Allen
As a race fan, I would like to see better racing at the Bristol Motor Speedway than has been conducted there since the track was resurfaced and reconfigured in 2007. But as a resident of the state of Tennessee, I do not want any of my tax dollars spent to bail out a large corporation and its billionaire boss after they chose to make the changes they made in the first place.
After seeing attendance trend downward since those changes to the track were made, the owners of the facility, Speedway Motorsports, Inc., announced after the most recent race in March that a fan poll would be conducted to determine whether or not fans wanted a change. According to the company, the response in favor of change was overwhelming.
An April 25th press conference is scheduled for SMI chairman O. Bruton Smith to announce exactly what changes will be made to the high banked, half-mile track. The company says the track can be returned to its previous configuration for $1 million. However, the need for a press conference to announce any reconfiguration causes one to wonder exactly what SMI has in mind since no real specifics have yet been given.
Since the announcement that changes would be made, Smith has met with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to discuss the possibility of the state providing funding for the proposed work.
Haslam called the meeting, “very, very preliminary.” The governor said no specific proposals were discussed, and no commitments made. “They’re an important part of the state,” he declared. “So, I sat down and talked with them today. Bristol is a huge part of our state revenue-wise. They didn’t have any specific proposals for us, nor did we have any for them, but it’s important for us to be in conversation with them about how they can get their attendance back to where they want it to be and where we want it to be, too.”
Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey added that, “Attendance was down over 50,000 people, and just the lost sales taxes for two races would be $1 million in revenue,” the state’s second in command told The Tennessean newspaper. “We have done things in the past, for tracks, for minor league ball clubs, and Bristol has never asked for anything before.”
Tennessee gave the Nashville Superspeedway $750,000 back in 2002 and 2003 as part of an incentive program to businesses. That was obviously money not well spent considering that track no longer hosts NASCAR races of any kind.
Somewhere in this I guess I am missing the logic, or perhaps there is no logic in a state government providing money to fund the mismanagement of a privately held company. Where is the sense in saying poor attendance cost the state $1 million in tax revenue so let’s give them another million and that might fix the problem?
The state should absolutely help with traffic, provide adequate roads into the facility and provide other means of support to Bristol Motor Speedway. But the operation of the facility itself is up to the SMI corporation.
Wednesday’s press conference regarding BMS should include information as to how Speedway Motorsports, Inc. intends to undo a bad decision they made in 2007 that brought about lackluster racing on a track that was once considered a ‘must see before you die’ event. But that announcement should not include any information about state tax money being used to support the bottom line of a major corporation headed up by one of America’s richest men.
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