Hot Sheet

Aurora dreams of NASCAR, but its city charter blocks the path

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 22, 2017 - Updated: June 22, 2017

Qualifying rounds at Pikes Peak International Raceway near Colorado Springs, in a 2005 photo. (Photo by Price Chambers)

Long-standing hopes of bringing NASCAR-style racing to the outskirts of Aurora have been frustrated for years by a 1999 charter amendment that bars the city from offering tax breaks to lure such a project.  So, the Aurora City Council voted this week to go to the ballot and ask citizens — once again — to repeal the charter provision.

The last time the city attempted a rollback, in 2015, voters rejected the idea.

Reports the Aurora Sentinel’s Quincy Snowdon:

Passed by a vote of 7-3, the proposed measure seeks to allow officials to pursue the development of a massive “entertainment district” on the city’s eastern plains by striking nearly 20-year-old language from the city’s charter, which prevents local leaders from offering tax breaks to a potential NASCAR-style speedway.

… City officials have underlined that they have not been in contact with any potential raceway developers. The ballot question will merely give city staffers the option to begin those discussions.

The dissenting council members based their “no” votes on concerns about procedure, reports Snowdon — that the proposal was rushed through without ample opportunity for public input. It had been introduced and picked up the council’s initial OK at a meeting earlier this month and then was formally placed on next November’s municipal ballot by the vote this past Monday.

Sentinel readers who posted comments to the news report wanted to discuss corner cutting by the council — as well as the merits of using tax incentives for a race track:

Kristin Mallory Westerberg • (2 days ago) 
I am more concerned about the developers and donors for City Council blackmailing our council people for a vote.
This entertainment district is not in my Ward (Ward 5); but the lack of transparency, the confusing ballot language, and the stench of special interests just solidifies voters distrust of the government.
If this is truly the best thing for the City, they should be able to get it done without skipping the committee process and allowing for public input and debate.

MoreFreedom2 … (18 hours ago) 
These type of crony deals are not usually a result of blackmail. They are usually a result of legal bribes with campaign cash and/or other favors to government officials for government favors (like lower tax rates than other businesses) in return. 
A new entertainment district, would essentially mean existing entertainment businesses would be subsidizing their competitors. …

bluescreen73 • (2 days ago) 
20 years ago this would’ve been a good idea, but anyone who’s been paying attention objectively knows that NASCAR is going through an extended downturn and its future looks pretty bleak. ISC and SMI have removed over 400,000 seats from their facilities. Monster is paying 60% less than Sprint did to sponsor the Cup Series. The tracks are only making money because of NASCAR’s bloated TV deals, and that revenue is expected to decline considerably as well.
 … “Build it and they will come” will fail miserably in this case.

JJ Van Heineken … (21 hours ago) 
Wow. Did you even read what that vote was for? It specifically says an entertainment district, with the possibility of a NASCAR-style track. It says no mention NASCAR would even be interested. In Kansas City, the NASCAR race weekend brings in around $100 million dollars each weekend its there, which is twice a year. $200 million to the local economy, who wouldn’t want a part of that? …

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.