Chicago area racetrack update 96-11-29

I'll apologize in advance for the length of this post... The DuPage Airport Authority Commission met Monday, 25-Nov, to review the responses to its Request for Qualifications for a racetrack on its property in west suburban Chicago. I...

I'll apologize in advance for the length of this post...

The DuPage Airport Authority Commission met Monday, 25-Nov, to review the responses to its Request for Qualifications for a racetrack on its property in west suburban Chicago. I attended meeting where the responses were presented.

Three groups responded to the RFQ -- Tag Sport Ltd., The Motor- sports Alliance, and DuPage Speedway and Entertainment Complex. I'll discuss them in the order they were presented.

Tag Sport, Ltd. ---------------

The principal in this group is William R. Kautz who is from the Chicago area. Tag Sport has its offices in Geneva, IL just west of the DuPage Airport. Mr. Kautz has been involved with international motorsports and is looking to start a Formula 1 team.

Tag Sport proposes to build Prairie Landing International Motor- sports Technology Park on 600 acres of airport property. The race track would be a road course that is modeled after the facility in Montreal. The track would have a north circuit 2.0 miles in length and a 1.4 mile south circuit; the combined circuit would be 3.6 miles in length.

The proposed races that were discussed for this facility included international race events such as a Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix and a Formula 1 motorcycle race. Also mentioned were IMSA and NATCC races and vintage car meet. [Although unmentioned during the presentation, it would seem likely that a CART race could be held on the same course.]

Tag Sport also proposes a convention and exposition center, a hotel, and a wind tunnel research facility for the site among other amenities.

Tag Sport had the most well developed site plan of the three proposals. However, this stage was a request for qualification, not a request for proposal.

The Motorsports Alliance ------------------------

The Motorsports Alliance is a consortium of International Speedway Corporation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Menard, Inc. Each party has a one third interest in the consortium.

Their proposal is for a 1.5 mile oval track on 722 acres of the airport property. It would have an initial seating capacity of 40,000 to 80,000 and include 20-30 corporate suites. The introduction was a video discussing the background of each consortium member that was narrated by Bob Jenkins.

The substance of The Motorsports Alliance proposal was a discussion of their financial position, their ownership of racing facilities, and their current involvement with owning race teams or promoting motorsport events. The Motorsports Alliance was promoting their financial resources, the knowledge of how to run racing facilities, and their relationships with various sanctioning bodies that can be leveraged to be award major racing events.

If they were chosen to proceed, The Motorsports Alliance would conduct a feasibility which would include physical tests, inspections, economic and environmental studies over the next 12 to 18 months. The Alliance would bear these costs and, for the payment of a fee, request exclusivity while proceeding.

This proposal did not speak to other development on the property such as a conventions and exhibition center or hotels. Rather, these would be determined as a result of the economic study. Included were letters of reference for ISC from the Governor of South Carolina and the mayors of Daytona Beach and Talladega and for IMS from the Governor-Elect of Indiana, the mayor and former mayor of Indianapolis, and the Marion County Auditor/County Commissioner.

DuPage Speedway and Entertainment Complex -----------------------------------------

The principals of the DuPage Speedway and Entertainment Complex include the FRG Group, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, and Gesner Sports Ventures. Chip Ganassi was present at the meeting along with Charles Gesner of Gesner Sports Ventures.

DSEC proposes to build a 1.5 mile oval with a 2.25 mile infield road course. It would seat 70,000, would include luxury suites and club seats, and would have parking for 35,000 vehicles. DSEC would build an amphitheater for concerts, plays and other community events. A convention center and other buildings could be included subject to the needs of and input from the Airport Authority and County Board.

Airport Authority Interests ---------------------------

>From the questions asked by the Airport Authority Commission members, it was apparent where their interests lie.

Revenue -- The Airport Authority wants to reduce tax burden on the DuPage County taxpayers. So a number of questions were asked regarding attendance, parking, etc.

Use of ancillary facilities -- The Airport Authority inquired as to whether a race track would promote use of the airport and golf course. All respondents indicated it would. They pointed out that many corporate jets would use the airport along with those of the teams and drivers.

Race Dates -- The commissioners had two questions regarding race dates. The first was whether two major race dates was sufficient for financial success. All answered yes, but that there would be other, lesser events on other weekends. The Motorsports Alliance pointed out that Talladega Motor Speedway succeeds on two events but did acknowledge that the venture would be more profitable in the later years rather than the earlier years.

The second was how are race dates are secured and what is the likelihood of a DuPage facility receiving them. Both Tag Sport and The Motorsports Alliance indicated that sanctioning bodies are reluctant to assign event dates until a facility is completed. Both had on-going discussions with sanctioning bodies and were confident of receiving event dates. Chip Ganassi of DSEC assured the Airport Authority Commissioners that if DSEC were chosen, the track would receive a CART event.

Timing -- Tag Sport and Motorsports Alliance both indicated that 1999 would be the earliest a race could be run. DSEC indicated it would be one year after zoning a permitting were complete.

Traffic -- The Authority Commissioners expressed concerns about traffic. The Motorsports Alliance indicated that there are generally 2-4 people per vehicle, but that two should be used for planning purposes. Tag Sport pointed out that the nearby commuter train line could drop people off within walking distance of the track thus reducing traffic on surrounding roads and reducing the number of parking spaces required. [The County has plans on the drawing board to extend Eola Rd north from Butterfield along the east side of the Fermi Lab and airport property to Roosevelt Rd. This would provide additional ingress and egress from the track.)

Side Discussions ----------------

In a side discussion with the Marketing Manager for the Airport Authority, I learned the following:

Residential Community Concerns -- To date, the DuPage Airport Authority has received no negative comments from residential areas. He speculated that either people don't believe that the building a racetrack will really happen or live too far away to be significantly affected. Closest residential area is two miles away. It was also pointed out during the presentations that jet aircraft landing at the airport probably generate as much noise as the racetrack would.

Adjacent Property Values -- The Village of Batavia, which is immediately west of the Airport Authority property land where the track would be built, has long opposed airport expansion. However, they appear to be interested and receptive to a racetrack on the property. Village property along Kirk Rd immediately west of the track site has had only had minimal interest from developers. With the announcement that a racetrack is being considered, the Village has received numerous inquiries from developers now interested in the land.

The presentations were done before the Committee of the Whole. As such, no public comment was entertained. The Airport Authority will hold its next board meeting on 9-Dec where public input will be solicited. The Airport Authority would like to select a proposal by mid-December and begin negotiations that would remove the vacant property from the market for 12 to 18 months while feasibility and impact studies are carried out.

-- Phil _____________________________________________________________ Philip Gravel Lisle, Illinois pgravel@mcs.net

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