NASCAR won’t be coming to Staten Island

International Speedway Corp. scrapped plans Monday to build a track on Staten Island, stalling NASCAR’s dream to bring a race to the New York area.

“While we are disappointed that we could not complete the speedway development on Staten Island, our enthusiasm for the metropolitan New York market is in no way dampened,” ISC president Lesa France Kennedy said. “We continue to view the region as a prime location for a major motorsports facility.”

France Kennedy heads ISC, the publicly traded sister company of NASCAR _ which was founded by her grandfather and currently chaired by her brother, Brian France

Both companies badly want to expand NASCAR into the New York metropolitan area, and moved toward that goal in 2004 when a subsidiary of ISC paid about $100 million for a 440-acre former oil tank farm on Staten Island. The company later bought another 236 acres to gain the necessary land for a race track.

The goal was to build a 0.8-mile state-of-the-art track that would have accommodated 80,000 fans and had the New York City skyline as its backdrop.

But the proposal has been met by severe resistance, including a a hotly contested April public meeting in which tempers reached dangerous levels _ forcing police to end the meeting over safety concerns.

Residents complained of traffic tie-ups and argued that the two major roads leading into the property would likely need major renovations to handle the increased loads.

Environmental concerns were also cited by opponents of the plan.

ISC’s decision to call off the plan was immediately trumpeted as a “monumental victory for the people of Staten Island,” by New York City Council Minority Leader James S. Oddo.

“For months, many a Staten Islander thought this project was a `done deal,’ ” Oddo said. “In the end, the interests of Staten Islanders as expressed in an earnest and unwavering fashion … prevailed.

“After all was said and done, NASCAR was simply an inappropriate fit for S.I.”

ISC cited an “inability to secure the critical local political support that is necessary to secure the required land-use change approvals” in ending the Staten Island project. In all, the company said spent about $150 million on the project:

_$123 million for land and related improvements.

_$11 million for costs related to the development of the speedway.

_$16 million for capitalized interest and property taxes.

ISC said it may now sell the land, which it believes will be worth more than $100 million and described as the largest undeveloped acreage in the five boroughs of New York City.

The company said the decision to abandon the effort will result in a non-cash, pretax charge results of approximately $75 to $85 million, or $0.90 to $1.02 per diluted share after-tax.

France Kennedy expressed disappointment over not getting a chance to present the entire proposal to residents.

“We clearly believe that if we had been able to proceed through the full public process, the significant benefits this project represents would have generated a more positive reaction,” she said.

NASCAR and ISC have long targeted both the New York and Pacific Northwest as areas it would like to expand into. Initial plans to build a track north of Seattle were thwarted, and ISC has since chosen a 950-acre site across the Puget Sound in Kitsap County, Wash.

ISC hopes that funding legislation on the Washington project will be submitted sometime in January.

The New York project is now uncertain, with ISC forced to find new land and an accepting public if it plans to continue.

France Kennedy said ISC, which owns 11 major tracks and hosts more than 100 annual events, said the company would move forward.

“Due to the considerable interest and support for NASCAR racing in the region, we remain committed to the pursuit of a motorsports entertainment facility development in the nation’s number one media market,” she said. “We believe a facility in this area represents a significant long-term opportunity for our company, and is one component of several broader strategic growth opportunities ahead for ISC.”

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.

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