Raceway boost to economy, study finds Would create $245 million in worker income, sales, state task force reports

March 04, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A proposed motor sports raceway in Essex-Middle River would pump millions of dollars a year of economic fuel into the area's laboring business engine, according to a new state study.

Among the benefits: $77 million in gross sales, $25 million in employee income and the equivalent in hours of 1,138 jobs -- most of which would be part time. That's not including construction.

The study was requested by legislative boosters of the $80 million to $100 million project, which is proposed for a 1,000-acre site between Eastern Boulevard and Pulaski Highway, near Martin State Airport.

The track would include a one-mile 60-foot-wide oval with a half-mile oval and a road course inside, seats for 100,000 including skyboxes, a six-floor office building and several restaurants. The track would be the site of about 30 races a year, held between March and November, the study says, noting that some information was supplied by Middle River Racing Associates Inc., the project's development firm.

Total generated

Overall, including secondary benefits such as food and hotel spending, the track would generate $189 million in sales, $56 million in new income and hours of work equal to 2,216 full-time jobs, the study says.

Based on those estimates, the track also would generate a projected $8.5 million in state and local tax revenues, not including property taxes.

"I think it's a very positive report," Democratic state Sen. Michael J. Collins, who represents the area, said yesterday.

That's why the report was requested. "The belief was it would show the positive effects" the track could have, he said. "The study would keep the momentum going."

Joe Mattioli III, chief of operations for the track, says the report by Maryland analysts helps him, too, "very significantly. This validates what we've been saying all along."

Opponent of track

One drag on that momentum is Brian Parker, Maryland chapter chairman for the Sierra Club.

"I was the only one opposing it," said Parker, a dentist and Fullerton resident who grew up in Essex. He served as the resident environmentalist on the 17-member task force -- made up of residents, public officials and business people -- that composed the report.

He noted in a separate addendum that the track would produce more air pollution, burn fossil fuels and create noise. The report didn't deal with environmental issues, though the site includes 400 acres of wetlands that cannot be developed.

'All American' project

Kenneth Caldwell, publisher of the Avenue newspaper in Essex and another task force member, said the community is all for the proposed track -- a marked contrast to public reaction a decade ago to plans for a huge Asian theme park and trade center on the land.

"This is all American -- apple pie. It's race cars," he said.

Waiting for a better proposal from some "clean" industry with high-paying jobs may be a pipe dream, boosters warn.

Pradeep Ganguly, director of the state's Office of Business and Economic Research, said the track would serve as a magnet, drawing other developments to the area, as the Inner Harbor did for Baltimore's downtown.

The project has a long way to go, however.

Financing for the project is not set. John B. Gontrum, a zoning attorney hired to get approval for the track, said he will have environmental and traffic studies done by June or July, when he hopes to present the plan to community residents and the county.

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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