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Gulf Coast Entertainment Complex


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Someone asked about this in one of the other threads... here's the story from Sundays paper.


I'm not holding my breath... Whatever happened to Houston Super Speedway, Texas Trac Group (or whatever that was), and the countless others around the nation??


Although, it sure would be nice to have in my new backyard here on the Alabama Gulf Coast.




Motorsports plans could be finalized by fall


Investors closing in on estimated $350 million professional car racing speedway project


Sunday, April 16, 2006


Real Estate Editor


Plans to bring top-level car racing to the Gulf Coast could be finalized in four to five months, according to investors in an estimated $350 million speedway project dubbed the Gulf Coast Entertainment Complex.


"The sanctioning bodies will not give you a race date until you break ground," said Rick Edwards, a Point Clear developer and a partner in the project. "Once they know we're going to build, we'll get the dates."


When plans were revealed almost two years ago, the investors said they were focused on landing a NASCAR race. They have now expanded their search.


"We're interested in Indy- or Formula 1-type races," Edwards said. "We didn't want to just limit it to NASCAR.


"We thought if we had a road course, we could open it up for different types of events," Edwards said. "Big corporations like BMW use road courses for testing when it's not used for an event. Most tracks in the country are full 70 to 80 percent of the time with non-racing events."


While stock car racing is the country's most popular form of auto racing, there are other successful series being run. The Indy Racing League's annual schedule is dominated by races in the United States, including stops at the two road courses also used by NASCAR's elite Nextel Cup Series as well as tracks in Nashville, Richmond and Homestead, Fla.


NASCAR's top drivers usually race on tracks that require only left turns, but twice a year they test their skills on road courses. Watkins Glen International in New York state has hosted a race in NASCAR's top division once every year since 1986. The other road course on the Nextel Cup Series schedule is Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.


The eight partners in the local motorsports investment group are from Alabama and the Southeast, including two professional drivers and team owners, according to Edwards.


One of the drivers is Rick Skelton, who owns the Hyper-Sport team (www.hyper-sport.net) that competes in the Grand American Road Racing Association. Skelton is also one of the developers of Bon Secour Village, a mixed use community under construction on the Intracoastal Waterway in Gulf Shores.


Another partner is developer Tim James, a former gubernatorial candidate and partner in the Baldwin County Bridge Co., which built the Foley Beach Express toll bridge. Bob Shallow, owner of REMAX Paradise in Orange Beach, is also part of the group.


The names of other investors, who Edwards termed well-known, were not released. "Our next step is to buy the property, and then we'll make a big splash telling who the stars are," he said.


The name of the race course will likely change, as the investors are seeking national sponsorships, according to Edwards.


The investors have purchase options on four sites, two of them in Baldwin County and two in nearby areas. The Baldwin sites are near the 14-mile Foley Beach Express, Edwards said.


The investors would like to have 1,000 to 1,500 acres. They would plan to use about 200 acres for the track, 500 acres for parking and the rest for retail, restaurants, hotels and condominium units, according to Edwards.


"We have had many discussions with different sanctioning bodies for oval tracks and road courses," Skelton said last week after returning from the Grand Prix in Long Beach, Calif. "Very few tracks can practice and test over the winter. Fall, winter and spring will be huge for us."


Additional race venues are great for the motorsports industry, according to Ramsey Poston, managing director of communications at NASCAR's headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla. NASCAR -- the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc. -- is the world's largest motorsports sanctioning body.


But NASCAR's race schedule is full and there is no current plan to expand or lengthen it, Poston said.


NASCAR, owned by the France family, runs about 90 races each year in 25 states through three racing circuits: the Busch, Craftsman Truck and Nextel Cup series. The France family's holdings include Talladega Superspeedway, which annually welcomes Alabama's two largest sports crowds.


The Nextel Cup Series has 38 race events per year in a season that runs from February through November.


NASCAR is interested in the possibility of sanctioning races in New York City on Staten Island and in the Seattle area, Poston said. Officials in many of NASCAR's existing cities are asking for additional races, he said.


"There's a huge appetite nationwide for more motorsports," he said.


The local investors are banking on that tremendous fan base to support a Gulf Coast location.


"This project will add to the local economy," Skelton said. "And the teams want to come down here. They love the beach, they love the area and they love that they can fly their private planes into Jack Edwards Airport. There are a lot of pluses."


The speedway would complement the existing attractions at the Gulf, said Herb Malone, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau in Gulf Shores.


The Gulf Coast will be able to handle additional traffic, Malone said. Plans are in the works to expand several arteries, including extending the Foley Beach Express to Interstate 10 and widening Alabama 180, or Canal Road, in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, he said.


Skelton said he will handle vendor sponsorship and track design for the planned road course. A professional driver for five years, Skelton has residences in Atlanta and Gulf Shores.


He drives a Daytona Prototype car and 2007 Ford Mustangs in races around the country. When he competes in the Grand-Am Cup Series, he shares the Mustangs with co-driver Patrick Dempsey, who stars on the ABC-TV series "Grey's Anatomy."

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