Sep 5, 2005
What do Cooperstown, New York; Canton, Ohio; and Springfield, Massachusetts, have in common? They are small cities that are the sites of major sports halls of fame and, because of that, the recipient of hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Now NASCAR is seeking a site for its Hall of Fame, which should bring with it billions of tourist dollars over time, and the competition is just as vociferous as it is on the track.
Richmond; Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Daytona Beach, Florida; and Kansas City, Kansas (huh?) are all vying for the honor of being home to stock car racing's greatest names. In its presentation, part of a multi-city tour, Richmond played up its close proximity to such tourist attractions as Colonial Williamsburg, various Civil War battle sites, King's Dominion and Busch Gardens amusement parks and Washington, DC. That might be hard for Kansas City to trump.
Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner got into the spirit of the pitch by saying, "Virginia is not only for lovers. Virginia is particularly for lovers of racing, particularly NASCAR."
And the fact is, Warner is probably right. Richmond's Hall of Fame presenters noted there are 37 race tracks in Virginia, two Nextel Cup Series races a year at Richmond International Raceway and at Martinsville Speedway. Bristol, Tennessee, which also hosts Cup races, is just across the Virginia border and draws a significant contingent of Virginia fans.
NASCAR has said that the hall would cost $103 million to build, and it is expected to attract as many as 700,000 visitors a year. Each of the locales vying for the Hall has a legitimate NASCAR connection, though some are more obvious than others. Atlanta is the "capital" of the Southeast and the home to longstanding NASCAR races. Charlotte is essentially the center of modern NASCAR, hosting races and housing many race teams. Daytona Beach is the home of NASCAR's most prestigious race. And Kansas City, Kansas, is across the river from Kansas City, Missouri. The steering committee expects to make its decision by December.
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