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Old 01-30-2009, 04:06 PM   #30
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Eastex Advocate News

McBain says Motorsports Park ‘has never been stronger’



Cleveland City Manager Philip Cook (left) chats with Marcus McBain of Liberty Motorsports Park (right, rear) and Cleveland Mayor Jill Kirkonis (right, front) after McBain’s December 4 speech to the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce. McBain stated that even though it has taken longer than expected to begin, the development is stronger than ever.




By ALEX WUKMAN
Updated: 12.05.08
Liberty Motorsports Park President Marcus McBain spoke at the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce’s December luncheon and said that despite the hurricane and the current economic situation, Liberty Motorsports Park “has never been stronger than it is today.” McBain’s speech was designed to assuage doubts that some members in the community may have about the project due to delays.

One of the main concerns that people have had is in regard to the motorsports park’s funding. McBain stated unequivocally that the project is not completely financed.

“Are we fully funded? The answer is ‘no,’ we aren’t fully funded. Are we funded to the point of starting? Absolutely yes,” said McBain. He also stated that “we will be starting in the next 30 to 60 days.”

McBain also said that there will be many changes coming very soon. One of the most visible changes will be Liberty Motorsports Park opening an office in downtown Cleveland.

“Our intention is to have an office open with in the next 2-4 weeks…we want to move to Cleveland and have a permanent presence in Cleveland,” said McBain.

He stated that part of the reason for the desire to establish a permanent presence in the city has been the interest.

“Our pre-sales for the project have been very strong. We have approximately 30 to 40 people who want to buy home lots out there and build homes,” said McBain. He went on to explain why there hasn’t been any construction and what happened after the motorsports park’s celebrated groundbreaking in July.

“In July we did the groundbreaking process on Harry Williams’ 819-acre tract, which we had purchased at the time. After we did that groundbreaking, we had actually signed a contract for some investment, and the additional money didn’t come in and then it stopped flowing,” said McBain.

He stated that the lack of funds is a symptom of the slowing economy. He also stated that the economic downturn slowed development of the motorsports park.

“I think a lot of people have realized that the economy has slowed down over the last year. It hasn’t been one month at a time; it actually has been going on for over a year. We actually had realized that and that’s why we were kind of hesitant to move forward several times. I find it very ironic that the press is now reporting that this recession started last December. We knew that already,” said McBain.

McBain also stated that even though construction may not have begun, he has not been idle. He stated that he has been working to promote the park.

He directed attention to copies of a March 2008 article titled “Public Financing for Motorsports” that were placed on each table. The article was taken from “Motorsports Industry News,” a Charlotte, North Carolina publication which states on its website that it is, “the official magazine of the North Carolina Motorsports Association.”

It also states that it is a business-to-business publication with a circulation of over 100,000 in the state’s $6 billion a year motorsports industry.

“I think it’s very important to recognize one thing — this project has brought national recognition to the city of Cleveland,” said McBain, “It’s very important to note that the entire country does have their eyes on us.”

McBain also mentioned his radio show on Houston radio station ESPN 97.5 The Ticket.

The Liberty Motorsports Hour airs Saturdays from 11.a.m-noon.

“It’s on Saturdays on 97.5 in Houston. We talk about the city of Cleveland, the Motorsports Park and the drivers and the riders that are going to be out here,” said McBain. He then described what he is “actually accomplishing.”

“It’s not just to build a race track, folks. It’s to have a marketing platform for the city. You will see some updates on our website soon. You will see Coca-Cola, ESPN and Tag Heuer watches. It has nothing to do with motorsports; it has to do with the fact we’re putting logos to the city. It’s very important because if we’re just about the motorsports park, we won’t be getting the economic development we need. You have to understand that we’re going to be selling conference centers and hotels. They need to know why they’re coming to the city of Cleveland and not somewhere down the 59 corridor,” said McBain.

McBain also stated that due to NASCAR’s acquisition of a portion of the AMA Superbike series, as well as the complete acquisition of another racing series, there had been some financing problems. However, once NASCAR’s growth strategy became clear, those problems were resolved.

McBain stated that NASCAR revealed that they see the Houston market as having tremendous growth potential.

“NASCAR is looking to grow revenue. And they see the Houston market as the number one market to grow revenue out of,” said McBain. However, he also said that for three months after the acquisitions, Liberty Motorsports Park was “in limbo.”

“That was something that left us in limbo for about three months because without a hard contract, a contract that was set in stone, revenue bonds haven’t issued real well, unless you have a contract for revenue. So that left us in a state where we didn’t really know how to move forward without NASCAR giving us some direction,” said McBain.

McBain stated that a large part of the project’s ability to move forward has come from increased local funding. He stated that Liberty Motorsports Park now has 22 investors.

“Of the 22 investors we have now, over half are from the Cleveland area or have direct ties to the Cleveland area. It’s no coincidence that as the local community started to step up and fund our project we’ve been very successful moving forward. We have much more capital opportunities on the horizon because of what local people have done,” said McBain.

He also said that he has turned down investors because they were more than happy to take advantage the city and the county to get what they want.

McBain stated that the vision that he and his staff are pursuing is “a balanced equation” and that developers rarely share that idea.

“Developers typically ask for the world, deliver nothing and want to make sure they don’t owe anybody money,” said McBain. He stated that he has had problems finding a developer who was willing to “treat the community with respect.”

McBain stated that because of the inability to find a developer who would treat the community respectfully, “all development has now been taken over directly by myself and Liberty Motorsports Park as a whole. We are now no longer working with a developer.”

McBain also stated that he studied why many Tax Implementation Reinvestment Zones (TIRZs) fail and that he found it is largely due to developers putting fees in the project that public finance can’t cover. He then launched into a foreshadowing of what he expects to happen as the project moves forward.

“Over the next 60 days, we’ll be pulling in funding and the funding will basically re-secure the land for Liberty Motorsports Park,” said McBain. He also said that in the next two months Liberty Motorsports Park will begin selling private real estate as well as purchasing radio and billboard advertising.

The radio advertising is expected to run on the Cumulus Media’s radio stations. Cumulus owns ESPN 97.5 FM The Ticket, 103.7 Jack FM and 104.1 FM KRBE.

“You’ll be able to hear about Cleveland on the radio, that’s kind of cool,” said McBain. He also stated that the billboards will be located on U.S. 59.

For more information on Liberty Motorsports Park, go online to www.libertymotorsportspark.com.
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