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Du Page Airport

Du Page Airport was an attempt to build a racing facilty at the DuPage Airport complex. It didn't happen. Chicagoland Speedway was ultimately built instead. DuPage Airport currently features a "fly in" golf course.

Last Updated: 2005-04-14

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Time zone: CST/CDT (-0600)

Historical Note

What follows is a collection of press releases and news articles put together by Phillip Gravel:

Speedway group gets DuPage OK for talks

By Dan Rozek
Chicago Sun-Times

A consortium that owns four major racetracks, including ones in Indianapolis and Daytona, Fla., grabbed the pole position Monday in the competition of build a new motor speedway at the DuPage Airport.

Airport commissioners agreed unanimously to begin negotiating with the Motorsports Alliance for a lease option on 750 acres of vacant land the racing group has targeted for a $60 million, 1-1/2 mile, 80,000 seat racetrack.

The racing partnership includes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and International Speedway Corp., which owns Daytona International Speedway and two other large tracks. The consortium beat out two other groups interested in the West Chicago site.

"They have a proven track record of doing this work," board chairman Joseph Kindlon said.

The decision allows airport officials to negotiate an option with Motorsports Alliance for eight to 12 months -- the length of time needed for the group to conduct feasibility, environmental and noise studies.

Though Motorsports officials said they will pay $100,000 for the short-term option that will keep the property off the market, both sides said construction of a speedway is far from certain.

"We're in the preliminary stage but we're excited about moving forward in this market" said Lesa D. Kennedy, senior vice president of International Speedway Corp.

Motorsports officials have proposed holding two major races a year -- one stock car event and one Indy car competition.

If studies show a track can succeed, airport authorities hope to sign a long term-lease that would help finance airport operations, which are now tax-supported.

West Chicago officials said the racetrack proposal could provide a long term source of tax money.

Still, West Chicago Mayor Steven Lakics offered no promises the track would be welcomed with open arms, saying much depends on financial and planning details yet to be negotiated.

Motorsports Alliance officials denied they had an inside track, although they acknowledged talking to airport officials beginning last summer. The airport put out a request for qualifications from racing groups in October.

Airport board zips to decision on speedway

Chicago Tribune
Tuesday, December 24, 1996

By William Grady
Tribune Staff Writer

A group that includes the owners of two of the higher-profile speedways in the U.S. was selected Monday to explore possibly bringing the major leagues of auto racing to suburban West Chicago.

After months of speculation and talk, DuPage Airport Authority board members voted to do business with Motorsports Alliance, a joint venture that proposes to spend $60 million to $70 million building a 1-1/2 mile oval racetrack on several hundred acres of airport-owned land south of Roosevelt Road near the DuPage-Kane County line.

The joint venture includes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp., a privately held company that annually hosts one of the world's premier auto races, as well as International Speedway Corp., which owns Daytona International Speedway in Florida and two other tracks.

The decision by the airport board does not guarantee a speedway will be build in West Chicago. Rather, it begins a process that could lead to racing in DuPage in 1998 or 1999.

Airport officials now will attempt to negotiate an agreement that essentially would halt temporarily their efforts to develop the property and allow time for the Motorsports Alliance to conduct the financial and feasibility, traffic and environmental studies it needs before deciding whether to begin construction.

The studies could take up to a year to complete.

West Chicago officials continue to take a cautious approach to the racetrack proposal.

Mayor Steven Lakics said after the airport board vote that traffic and noise remain concerns of residents, though he noted any development of the property -- whether for corporate offices or as an industrial park -- likely would generate additional traffic.

The bottom line, Lakics said, is, "There has to be a financial benefit to the community."

The Chicago area is one of the largest untapped markets in the U.S. for a sport that has been growing in popularity. NASCAR- sanctioned stock car racing alone is believed to be a $2 billion- a-year industry.

In Illinois, speedways are under construction or proposed for Kankakee, the Quad Cities area and in Downstate Madison across the Mississippi River from St. Louis [the Madison track is the redevelopment of Gateway by Chris Pook, promotor of the Long Beach GP -- rpw].

The airport board's decision to choose the Motorsports Alliance was expected.

Though there was little discussion at Monday's meeting, board members had said publicly and privately they believed the joint venture was in the best position financially to develop a speedway. That also was the recommendation of airport staff and the board's consultant on development issues.

"They [the Motorsports Alliance] have a proven track record of doing this sort of thing," said Joseph Kindlon, airport board chairman.

Two other groups, the DuPage Speedway and Entertainment Complex and Tag Sport Ltd., had pitched competing proposals at meetings in November and earlier this month.

Representatives of both groups voiced dismay at the board's decision.

DuPage Speedway had sought to make a new presentation on Monday, but its principals were delay by fog and rain in the Chicago area.

The group included Indy-car team owner Chip Ganassi, also a partner in the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club, and Charles H. Gessner Jr., an investment banker in Palm Beach, Fla., with expertise in financing sports facilities.

John F. Garrow, a Wheaton lawyer represented the group, said he thought the board acted too quickly in making its decision.

William R. Kautz, a Geneva businessman and partner in Tag Sport Ltd., charged that the board had acted irresponsibly throughout its decision-making process.

In a letter to airport administrator Gordon Cole, Kautz wrote, "We believe you and the board have arrogantly underestimated the intelligence of the community who have now, for the most part, become your opposition."

Kautz has vowed to find another site in the western suburbs for his proposed European-style race course surrounded by an office and industrial park.

Airport board members generally had praised Kautz's plan but had voiced doubts about the group's financial backing.

Officials of Motorsports Alliance noted that the airport's request for proposals had asked at this stage more for financial background and racetrack expertise of the competing groups rather than for detailed drawings of development proposals.

"We do in fact run a number of large speedways," said H. Lee Combs, senior vice president of operations for International Speedway.

Combs also promised to help public officials in the area pitch the economic and other benefits of a racetrack, which includes recognition nationwide for the host community.

In addition to Daytona, International Speedway owns the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama and the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina and has interests in other tracks.

Motorsports Alliance had offered to pay $100,000 to the airport for what amounts to an option to lease the property. Airport officials had indicated they may seek more.

Other issues expected to be on the table during the next stage of negotiations are whether the airport will refund any of the option fee if plans for a speedway are dropped, and whether the joint venture will pick up the cost of any consultants the airport decides to hire.

Indy group wins DuPage Airport property race

By Jeremy Olson
Copley News Service

The Motorsports Alliance, a conglomerate of racing organizations whose credits include ownership of the Indianapolis and Daytona 500s, was selected Monday by the DuPage Airport Authority to negotiate leasing airport Property on which to build a racetrack.

Now a bigger question for looms: Should the Airport Authority allow construction of a racetrack on its property at all?

The answer will come over the next 12 months, the time in which airport and Alliance officials plan to negotiate a lease over 722 acres of land between Roosevelt Road and Fermilab.

"That's what the next eight to 12 months are all about," said airport Public relations director Brian Kulpin. "They have to show us this is environmentally and economically feasible."

Municipal groups will play a key role as well. West Chicago officials, who will discuss the track at a meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 13, will have to rezone that land before a racetrack could be built, giving them substantial authority over its development.

The alliance proposed construction of a 1.5-mile oval track surrounded by grandstands that could hold up to 80,000 people.

Optimistically, Alliance executives said the track could hold a race in 1998 if they reach a deal with the airport.

The alliance consists of the International Speedway Corporation (ISC); Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS); and John Menard owner of Menard's Inc. and an Indy racing team.

Commissioners said they selected the alliance with which to negotiate because of its financial stability, exemplified by ISC's $80 million stock sale through which it could fund the track.

"We are a board that represents taxpayers," said Commissioner Vern McCarthy Jr. "We're not in the risk business. We're not commissioned to risk taxpayers' money."

Airport officials have stressed this is far from a done deal, noting environmental, engineering and traffic studies will need to be completed, and public opinion will need to be considered.

"A project like this is so community-oriented," agreed Lee Combs, ISC senior vice president. "Clearly, we're going to have to go out and test the waters and educate the community."

Among the concerns likely to be discussed are:

o Race dates:

The potential economic windfall of a track likely hinges on the ability to attract a race to it that is sanctioned by a major organization such as the Indy Racing League (IRL) or NASCAR.

And several other developers in the Midwest will be seeking those coveted race dates. New tracks are being considered in the Illinois cities of Kankakee and East St. Louis as well as the Quad Cities. A major track is being proposed on the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit.

And all of these would compete with tracks already operating in Indianapolis; Brooklyn, Mich.; and Milwaukee.

But airport commissioners said they were confident the alliance has the clout as owners of the two most lucrative races in the nation in the Indianapolis and Daytona 500s to lure a major NASCAR or Indy-car race here.

o Economic impact:

Commissioners have said their primary concern is the racetrack provide enough revenues to the Airport Authority to free it from the county tax rolls. But the project won't likely get community support unless racetrack developers can convince them of its economic benefits.

The Alliance, unlike the other two groups, is more interested in focusing on construction of a racetrack rather than developing the land around it. But their qualifications included references from other cities where the development strategies helped to create millions in annual revenues for various communities.

ISC operates tracks in both Darlington, S.C., and Talladega, Ala., where annual revenues generated from two major races at each facility exceed $50 million. Darlington is a town of 8,000 people and Talladega a town of 20,000, both in relatively rural settings.

Roughly 150,000 people come to each of two major races at the Talladega Superspeedway each year, said Mayor Charles Osborne. The airport has a tower that is just used on two race weekends when as many as 600 planes a day will land there, he added.

"These people spend money here; that's the short of it," said the 21-year mayor. "Talladega is known worldwide, and it's all because of the racetrack. That kind of publicity alone is worth millions of dollars."

o Environmental Impact:

Although the proposed site is over a mile from the nearest residential area, commissioners said they expect noise on race days to be a chief concern.

Darlington Mayor Ronnie Ward admitted he can always tell when it's race day in his city because he can hear the stock car engines rumbling from the other side of town in Darlington National Speedway. But he said noise on two days out of the year is a fine trade-off for the economic benefits.

"It sounds like music to our ears," said the 13-year mayor of Darlington, which is the birthplace of stock car racing.

While Darlington speedway is 40 years old, Alliance officials said the modern racetrack designs limit the noise from the cars. For example, large berms can be erected around a track to dampen engine noise.

o Infrastructure, transportation:

Airport officials stressed to the alliance they will not provide public money for the project, leaving the expansion of sewer systems for the track and the widening of roads solely at the developer's expense.

Alliance officials said a key reason for their interest in the location was its proximity to a railway line that leads into downtown Chicago, making the addition of a commuter station likely. Several roads could be widened to handle increased traffic as well.

Although all three development groups addressed these issues in some measure, the Alliance proposal was selected over the DuPage Speedway and Entertainment Complex group's plan for an oval track and entertainment complex and the Geneva-based TAG Sports Ltd.'s plan for a Formula One road track surrounded by industrial complexes.

Undaunted, William Kautz, TAG president said his group is negotiating access to more than 1,000 acres of property in Kane County on which to build the Formula One road track and industrial complex he originally pitched for the airport property.

Kautz, whose Geneva business is in view of the airport property he sought to develop, said the TAG plan he submitted this fall and the global popularity of Formula One-style racing never received thorough consideration from airport officials who had been talking with The Motorsports Alliance for roughly a year.

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DuPage Airport
West Chicago, IL 60185

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