Political Notes – Maybe losing that NASCAR bid wasn’t so bad after all

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Back in 2005, there was a big push by Georgia’s political leaders and business organizations to persuade NASCAR to locate its proposed hall of fame in Atlanta.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Central Atlanta Progress were so determined to win that project that they refused to disclose their bid documents to the public (they lost the court battle to keep the bids secret).

NASCAR officials eventually picked Charlotte over Atlanta. With the advantage of seven years of hindsight, however, losing that NASCAR bid may have been the best thing that ever happened to the state and its capitol city.

The NASCAR hall of fame opened in Charlotte two years ago and it has turned out to be a big money-loser. As reported by Steve Harrison in the Charlotte Observer:

In the last two years, the CRVA (Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority) has been criticized over the performance of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a $200 million racing museum the city built with hotel/motel occupancy tax dollars.

The NASCAR Hall has fallen far short of attendance projections, and it has usually lost money each month.

In its first full year, which ended in June 2011, the hall attracted 272,000 people and lost about $1.4 million. Attendance was supposed to be 800,000. The hall’s attendance in fiscal year 2012 – which ended June 30 – was 197,410. The CRVA and the city had projected 400,000 people for that year.

The CRVA said the hall lost $1.86 million last fiscal year. A reimbursement from the city of Charlotte for building-related maintenance reduced the deficit to $908,507.

The financial struggles of the NASCAR hall of fame are something to keep in mind as Georgia moves closer to a final commitment of $300 million in hotel-motel tax funds for a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

Watchdog awards

Common Cause Georgia has named 17 people as winners of the organization’s 2012 Democracy Awards for their efforts to “improve Georgia’s ethics laws or have stood firm for higher standards and better government.”

The honorees include AJC columnist Jay Bookman, former attorney general Mike Bowers, state Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur), Debbie Dooley of Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Kay Godwin of Georgia Conservatives In Action, Richard Hyde of the Judicial Qualifications Council, AJC cartoonist Mike Luckovich, state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus).

Atlanta Council member Felicia Moore, League of Women Voters President Elizabeth Poythress, state Rep. Tommy Smith (R-Alma), Julianne Thompson of Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Pat Tippett of Georgia Conservatives In Action, Bob Wilson of the Atlanta Public Schools investigation, AJC columnist Kyle Wingfield, and syndicated columnist Dick Yarbrough.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Charlotte , Common Cause Georgia , NASCAR hall of fame