The new owner of the Iowa Speedway won initial approval Thursday to continue receiving a state sales tax exemption at the Newton track and extending the potential $12.5 million benefit until 2026.
In approving Senate Study Bill 3162, a three-member Senate Ways and Means subcommittee agreed to forego the previous requirement that the track be an Iowa-owned entity, noting that the new owner is an Iowa LLC and that the venue has a substantial economic benefit both locally and statewide.
Last November, NASCAR announced that the sanctioning body had itself bought the 7/8-mile track 30 miles east of Des Moines. Track manager Jimmy Small told subcommittee members Thursday that NASCAR has racing and entertainment plans for the speedway designed to make it a world-class destination.
Small said NASCAR plans to brand the Newton facility as “the fastest short track on the planet” and expand the appeal by bringing music concerts and other unique events to the venue, as well as providing specialty Iowa-based foods to its expanding fan base. He didn’t have specifics to share, but indicated the unique food offerings likely would include bacon.
To facilitate the track, which opened in 2006, Iowa lawmakers agreed to rebate the 5 percent state sales tax through 2016 with an expected $12.5 million benefit. So far, the track has recouped about $3.5 million, and the proposed legislative change would ensure the remaining $9 million tax benefit through 2026. Voters also approved local option and school infrastructure sales taxes totaling 2 cents – revenue which is retained locally, not by the track.
Small called the Iowa Speedway a premiere sports facility in Iowa, and plans are to expand the capacity beyond the current 24,686 seats and make other changes designed to make it an “iconic” world-class venue. He expected the upgrades would make the Newton track a “magnet” for other business activities to locate in the central Iowa area.
“We want to grow with the state,” he said. “We can’t do it without the sales tax rebate.”
Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, the subcommittee chairman and a racing enthusiast, said he hopes the Newton track eventually will become a stop on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit, and he envisioned the Newton track working with the Knoxville Raceway to make Iowa a top racing venue in the nation.
“I think eventually this thing is going to be a coliseum. It’s going to look like Bristol,” Dotzler said. “I think this is a great return on our investment.”