Jumping the gun Anne Arundel: Auto racetrack promoters hurt their credibility by promising an event that's uncertain.

May 12, 1998

MIDDLE RIVER Racing Association, the group that wants to build an auto racetrack in Anne Arundel County, has gotten itself in hot water again -- for no good reason.

Last month, MRRA announced that a Busch Grand National NASCAR race would be held at its proposed Marley Neck speedway in the year 2000. NASCAR now says it never sanctioned the event.

MRRA's announcement was timed to coincide with a County Council vote on whether to allow racing as a conditional use in a heavy industrial area under the Anne Arundel zoning code. The issue involved land use, not whether MRRA could lure an existing race.

Nevertheless, MRRA must have felt compelled to make a big splash by announcing April 20 that a NASCAR-sanctioned race would move from a small track in South Boston, Va., to MRRA's planned $100 million oval beside the Pasadena waterfront.

Whatever MRRA hoped to gain by boasting it had secured a major race has been lost. MRRA already labored with credibility problems after it bounced from Baltimore County to Anne Arundel, and then from one site to another. Opponents seized on discrepancies in previous statements about studies and projections. By announcing it had snagged a NASCAR race before it had worked out the details, MRRA handed its opponents a hammer. Opponents didn't miss the chance to strike a few blows against the project, which they claim will bring too much noise, traffic and pollution. County Councilwoman Diane R. Evans said the company deceived the public.

If the track gets built, NASCAR is likely to sanction some type of race there. Why continue in South Boston with 12,000 seats when a new 58,000-seat speedway sits in a major market between Baltimore and Washington? With stock-car racing's growing appeal in Northeast urban markets, NASCAR is likely to support races near Baltimore. In the meantime, MRRA would be better off to focus on getting its speedway approved.

Pub Date: 5/12/98

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