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Bainbridge motor sports proposal sent to pits due to costs,economic climate


Gentlemen, turn off your engines.

A study to be released by the Maryland Economic Development Corp. says the cost of a proposed major motor sports facility at the old Bainbridge Naval Station site in Cecil County and the current economic downswing make such a project unrealistic.

The report, due this week, recommends the development of a "mixed use" area -- with a golf course, residential area and industrial complex.

"There are at least four major reasons we've decided to go in another direction," said Hans F. Mayer, MEDCO's executive director.

The No. 1 reason is the cost of building a major facility, about $64 million, in relation to the amount that could be amortized over a "reasonable" period of time, about $35 million.

And, no matter what is built at Bainbridge, Mayer said, it will cost an additional $7 million just to get the 1,200-acre tract in condition to be used. The Navy is clearing the asbestos from the existing buildings, a project expected to be completed in April 1993.

But when Navy personnel finally leave the site, there still will be old buildings, building pads, old foundations and asphalt roadway to be cleared. Plus, some of the land, which formerly had been used as a firefighting school, must be reconditioned.

Which means the mixed use development won't be on a fast track either. Mayer estimated it will take "from 12 to 20 years to build out and get a full return."

The other reasons the motor sports facility has been rejected:

* Granite, a very hard rock, has been discovered under the surface, that would be expensive to move and especially so, because one side of a race track would have to be dropped about 170 feet to level it.

* NASCAR, which sanctions Winston Cup stock car racing, appears to be more interested in Midwest and Western expansion. In addition, Bainbridge is located within 160 miles of three tracks that already have Winston Cup races and of two others that have Championship Auto Racing Team (Indy-car) events.

* Plus, NASCAR won't promise a race until there is a racetrack.

In 1988, when the state considered the development of a major speedway complex, an economic feasibility study by the state Department of Economic and Employment Development told another story.

The DEED report determined a multipurpose motor sports complex would produce $146 million in annual spending at the track and surrounding businesses (lodging, concessions, tickets, etc.) and would create employee income of $38 million through 3,264 new jobs.

The DEED study also said, counting only the increases in retail sales taxes, personal income taxes and amusement taxes, state and local government would realize annual tax revenues of $8.4 million.

"The DEED study assumed the facility was already there," Mayer said of the discrepancies. "Of course, once it is there, there will be an impact. But if you study the numbers we've come up with to get the project in place, it's just very difficult to move ahead on it."

While the new report recognized motor sports as "the second best attended sporting event" in the United States, with attendance of more than 12 million in 1990, it also said it would be very difficult for Maryland to tap into the large audience without a Winston Cup race, which it said was unlikely to occur with other tracks close by.

The new report, compiled under the direction of H.O.H. Associates, also includes studies by Economic Research Associates (marketing), Loiederman Associates Inc. (engineering), Ziger, Hoopes & Snead Architects (historic architecture) and Gorove/Slade Associates (transportation planning).

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