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County close to agreement on racetrack

Tue., Dec. 16, 2008, 10:32 p.m.

County leaders are one signature away from an agreement that will allow them to complete the purchase of a new raceway without dipping into tax revenue.

The Spokane County Commission on Tuesday signed a contract with racing enthusiast Bucky Austin to operate for 25 years the Spokane County Motorsports Park in Airway Heights.

Austin owns Bucky’s Complete Auto Repair, a chain of repair shops headquartered in Fife, Wash.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke said the agreement was Austin’s latest proposal, but that it still needs Austin’s signature to be finalized. He noted that it likely will cover the cost to buy the property and the cost to improve it. He and County Commissioner Mark Richard have said the raceway will boost economic development, increase visitors to the region and give youth a positive activity.

“We’re moving forward in a big way,” said Spokane County parks director Doug Chase.

The agreement guarantees the county a monthly rental fee and a portion of ticket prices

The county borrowed $4.5 million to buy the 315 acres of the former Spokane Raceway Park, and officials believe the contract with Austin will cover the county’s payments on its debt.

“We owe Bucky Austin just a whole lot of gratitude,” said County Commissioner Bonnie Mager, who opposed the purchase of the raceway.

Starting in April, Austin will pay the county $10,000 a month until 2014, when the monthly rent will increase by 2 percent annually.

Austin also has agreed to pay the county $2 for each ticket sold, and has guaranteed that the county’s portion of gate proceeds will be at least $150,000 in 2009, $200,000 in 2010 and $250,000 for each of the three years after that.

In addition, Austin will spend at least $2 million to improve the run-down speedway, which has a drag strip, road-racing course and oval track.

Chase said Austin has indicated that he’ll likely invest even more than the minimum that’s listed in the contract. He added that the venue could be used for concerts and attractions.

“They have a lot of exciting plans for community events out there, both for the fans and competitors and for folks out there in the community,” Chase said.

Mager said she doesn’t regret her votes against the purchase. She noted that just prior to the auction, tests found possible soil contamination and a contaminated well, and the county still doesn’t know the cost of cleanup.

Supporters of the purchase note that $1 million was set aside from the raceway’s auction to pay for groundwater cleanup – an amount they say should cover any liability.

Under the contract signed by commissioners Tuesday, Austin is not responsible for contamination that happened under the raceway’s former operator, Orville Moe.

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