I'm stunned -- but excited -- to hear that the Tulare Motorsports Park is on the verge of confirming a first round of funding. This project went mostly silent with the recession, and despite rumors in recent weeks that it was coming back, I remained skeptical.
And don't get too excited yet -- this prospective round of funding is only to buy land, and install utilities and roads. But the endorsement from S.C. Global Investments is a strong first step and a confidence builder for anyone who doubted the dreams of building a $750 million complex featuring a 1-mile oval, dragstrip, kart track and 1/4-mile oval in the middle of Central California. There's also talk of a shopping center, theaters and amusement park.
If all goes to plan, construction is to begin later this year with completion of the mile-track and drag strip by July 4, 2012.
I have my doubts all that will be built out -- the project scope has grown from $400 million a few years ago to $750 million this week knowing the legacy of the mortgage meltdown will be with us for years -- but from what I hear from other people, the track project is a real deal and not just a pipe dream. The video on the Tulare Motorsports homepage does a great job of selling the glitz and glamor of big-time racing. This is not your local dirt track we're talking about.
My major concerns remain: A project this large will require lots of visitors from outside the San Joaquin Valley dropping big bucks on hotel, food, park tickets and everything in between. The Craftsman Truck Series couldn't survive more than a few years at Mesa Marin in Bakersfield and IndyCar can't draw beans at Fontana, so who's to say a much larger track in the middle of Central California will draw enough people to, say, a NASCAR Nationwide race or an IndyCar race? Just asking. Perhaps the key is the drag strip in the short term, where it may be easier to pull a top-drawer NHRA event.
Regardless, I wish the project the best and hope it can restore to the area the rich history left by nearby Marchbanks Speedway and Hanford Motor Speedway a half-century ago. It's been too long.
Lots of good detail in fresh Fresno Bee and Valley Voice stories, particularly news that the timing of the funding announcement may be tied to issues raised in the upcoming Tulare City Council election. Hmmm.
The story says this first round of funding would be for $137 million, and set the track price at $400 million. Figures on the Tulare Motorsports Complex site list a $750 million price for total expenses so it's no surprise people are asking questions about the true price tag, particularly if it involves tax money.
And the Bee is right about Ken Clapp's presence being an important factor. People in the know say Clapp gets stuff done, and when he says something, it'd not idle bluster.
More developments with the Tulare track project:
Committee Chairperson Phillip Mattingly is making very public and extremely serious accusations so it will be interesting to see what the next chapter is in the project's troubled history.
Up and down and up and down.
Tuesday brought news that track proponents had lost a key battle, when the International Agri-Center board voted not to sell 350 acres to track developer Bud Long. The Agri-Center board "lost confidence" in the plans, the Visalia Times-Delta reported. The Fresno Bee said the decision "appears to kill the project."
Hard to argue with that, in light of the update I posted on Nov. 15.
A regional news site called Sierra 2 The Sea is suggesting there's still hope for the troubled Tulare Motorsports Complex.
The site interviewed project partner James Bancroft, who lays out the possibilities for the track to get back on track despite a recent decision not to sell property to the developers, which all but seemed to kill the project's current plans. But Bancroft "insists the picture is not as grim as it might seem," Sierra2TheSea reported.
As I have noted before, I'd like for this to work but will believe it when I see it.