State senate gives Iowa Speedway's future hopes a boost
May 10, 2013
Andy Hamilton and William Petroski
© Des Moines Register
May 8th, 2013
Iowa Speedway’s bid to land a date on the coveted Sprint Cup Series calendar has picked up some speed.
That’s because of the Iowa Senate’s approval of an appropriations bill that would provide $8 million to the track over the next four years to upgrade its facilities in an effort to bring NASCAR’s top circuit to Newton.
“If we get a Cup race, it will be great,” Iowa Speedway designer and minority owner Rusty Wallace told the Register on Wednesday night. “It will be massive for the state.”
It’s difficult to crack the 36-race Sprint Cup schedule, but Wallace said the money would provide a boost in his racetrack’s efforts. The funding was included in the so-called standings appropriations bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday night. The special appropriation received no debate, although Sen. William Dotzler, D-Waterloo, who pushed for the funding, said Wednesday that both the Democratic and Republican caucuses were aware the track money had been inserted into the spending package.
The bill must still be considered by the Iowa House.
“This is something they have kind of been working on behind the scenes,” said Dotzler, a season-ticket holder who has attended every race since the Newton track opened in 2006. “I know the speedway has been in contact with the governor’s office and the House and the Senate. They are working hard to try to get the next-level race at the speedway.”
Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said Wednesday the governor will need to review the legislation “carefully in its final form prior to indicating whether it has his support.”
The legislation says the state money would be appropriated to the Iowa Economic Development Authority for the development and promotion of a national sporting event at the automobile racetrack location in the City of Newton.
“What it means if it goes through is more stability for the racetrack,” Wallace said. “It shows the sport of NASCAR racing in the state of Iowa is big, and it’s something everybody is proud of. And the state realizes that and they’re putting a lot of love and support behind the speedway and we really, really appreciate it.”
Newton has hosted the Izod IndyCar Series and NASCAR’s second- and third-level series (Nationwide, Camping World Trucks). But Sprint Cup events would be “the Big Kahuna,” Dotzler said. An event in NASCAR’s premier series could draw more than 100,000 fans and nationwide media coverage, he said.
But Dotzler said the track would need to expand its stands, restrooms and concession stands and make other upgrades to offer Cup racing.
Wallace said the money could help the Speedway expand its permanent seating from 25,000 to 60,000 and “improve the infrastructure around the track to get it in shape for a Cup race.”
“Infrastructure is a word that covers many things,” he said. “It can cover roads around the speedway and inside the speedway; it could be restroom facilities for fans; it could be grandstand improvement … anything we can do to attract a Cup race, which we’re working on desperately right now. What the state realizes is (a Cup race would be) a massive economic impact for Iowa.”
Pulling in a Cup race has long been a goal for Iowa Speedway, but NASCAR officials have said they have no plans to expand their current schedule beyond its 36-race format. That means Iowa Speedway’s hopes rest on brokering a deal with another track.
“I’m a real aggressive thinker. I’d say if we can get a Cup date, we could be running this thing in ’14,” Wallace said. “That’d be great. Everybody else would think I’m crazy. They’re thinking ’15.”