Site near Fort Meade considered for auto track Baltimore County, Kankakee, Ill. also in the running

December 18, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County is gunning to become the home of a $100 million NASCAR auto racetrack -- but Baltimore County, Kankakee, Ill., and other locations still are in the running for the project.

A Timonium-based development group called the Middle River Racing Association is considering a 400-acre site west of Fort Meade and south of Route 32 for a 100,000-seat track and entertainment complex, Chris Lencheski, general manager of the company, said yesterday.

Other sites being studied include 1,100 acres near Martin State Airport in Baltimore County and land 60 miles south of Chicago, said Mike Alfinito, director of communications for the company.

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary said he has met with developers and strongly supports the idea of the county receiving the perhaps $10 million a year in taxes the track could produce. He added, however, that the project first would have to win the approval of neighbors.

"The ball is in their court," Gary said. "The developers have to make a proposal, bring it to the county and try to get the community's support."

Protests about potential traffic jams from residents a few miles south of Fort Meade helped kill a proposal three years ago to build a Washington Redskins football stadium in Anne Arundel County.

The racetrack developers already own an option to build on the land in Baltimore County.

But negotiations there stalled this fall when the county demanded that the company invest more than $12 million in improvements to roads and sewers and told the developers that the approval process could last until 2001 -- longer than the developers wanted.

Yesterday, however, the developers and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said discussions are continuing.

"I believe that NASCAR racing is a very exciting sport and I am in favor of bringing it here," said Ruppersberger. "But we do not want Baltimore County to be leveraged in a competition with Anne Arundel County or anyone else."

Gary said: "We are not going to get into a bidding war with Baltimore County."

Nevertheless, Anne Arundel of- ficials said they are excited about a complex that could create 1,500 jobs and pump millions of dollars into local businesses.

Members of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit company that works for the county to attract businesses, visited NASCAR racetracks in Texas and California this fall and were impressed with them, said Bill Badger, a senior vice president.

Less impressed with the idea is state Del. Michael W. Burns, a Republican from Glen Burnie who said traffic from the complex would overwhelm local roads.

"We had to beat back the Redskins ball field proposed for this area. Now we have to beat back a racetrack," said Burns. "Enough is enough. I'd like to see northern Anne Arundel start receiving schools and other amenities and not just be a dumping ground for industrial projects."

Pub Date: 12/18/97

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