NASCAR Hall of Fame
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR's first Hall of Fame will be built in downtown Charlotte, within miles of the garages and sprawling mansions that make the region an epicenter of the sport.
The selection of Charlotte for the site of the $107.5 million hall ended a yearlong race featuring four other cities. The hall is expected to lure hundreds of thousands of NASCAR fans annually, and officials hope it will open in 2009.
"In the end, you look at what's going to be best in the long run," NASCAR chairman Brian France told a crowd of about 1,000 people at the city's convention center Monday.
The remaining finalists were Daytona Beach, Fla., and Atlanta. Richmond, Va., and Kansas City, Kan., were eliminated earlier.
"As a guy, I'm disappointed. They decided to marry the girl next door," Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said. "We had a lot to offer. It could have been a great marriage."
Robin Braig, president of Daytona International Speedway, added: "It would've been a great show for us, but we'll rebound from it."
Sports marketing experts have described the hall as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to spur tourism among NASCAR's famously loyal fan base.
Charlotte's proximity to the heart of the sport was cited repeatedly by supporters. Lowe's Motor Speedway in suburban Concord is home to the longest race on the Nextel Cup circuit, the Memorial Day weekend Coca-Cola 600, and has long hosted NASCAR's annual all-star race.
Nearly all the top race teams are headquartered in the communities north of the city, and many top drivers own luxury condominiums in downtown Charlotte or palatial homes on nearby Lake Norman. Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the most popular drivers, lives nearby and has said Charlotte should get the hall.
In billboards and bumper stickers distributed as part of the city's campaign for the hall, officials boasted, "Racing was built here. Racing belongs here" and "We Eat, Sleep & Breathe Racing."
Felix Sabates, who with fellow team owner Rick Hendrick helped spearhead Charlotte's campaign, said the deal was completed Friday. Officials were expected to take the package to the city council for approval at a Monday evening meeting.
Charlotte touted its proposal with architectural drawings by I.M. Pei, noted designer of the famous pyramid addition to the Louvre in Paris and the east wing of Washington's National Gallery. Those drawings are dominated by a banked curve that encircles the building, evoking the shape of a speedway.
From one corner of the building, a latticework tower emblazoned with the NASCAR logo rises, reminiscent of the towers that display race standings from the infield of most speedways.
Under NASCAR's deal with Charlotte, ground is to be broken by the spring of 2007, with opening scheduled for no later than March 31, 2010.
The hall is to be owned by the city of Charlotte and operated by its convention and visitors bureau under a contract with NASCAR that runs into 2038. In return, the city is to pay unspecified royalties to NASCAR, plus between 5 and 10 percent of various revenue streams. Royalty payments will be deferred if the hall doesn't make a profit.
The deal also gives NASCAR a six-month option to commit to building a 300,000-square-foot office building as part of the Hall of Fame development, under a 99-year lease that would cost NASCAR $1 a year. The project also is to include a new $43 million ballroom for the adjacent Charlotte Convention Center.
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