Earnhardt Track to be Part of 2,000-Acre Development

Thu December 07, 2006 - Southeast Edition

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) Developers hope to make a final decision this month on the site for an entertainment complex anchored by a Dale Earnhardt Jr. auto racing track in coastal Alabama and have it fully running by 2010.

The track officials had planned to name the chosen site at a news conference Nov. 9. But while the news conference was held, the officials said the announcement of the site for the Alabama Motorsports Park was delayed to complete checking on the property.

One of the officials, former Mobile Mayor Michael C. Dow, said he doesn’t expect any additional property will be involved.

As announced in September with Earnhardt present, the park could be built in Mobile County or in one of two sites in neighboring Baldwin County.

Dow, president of Gulf Coast Entertainment LLC said the project drew many offers of property. Three final sites for the 2,000-acre (810 ha) development remain under review: One in Prichard, Saraland and unincorporated Mobile County across from the University of Mobile near Interstate 65; and two in Baldwin County north of the Foley toll highway that connects I-10 to Gulf beaches. No specific locations in Baldwin County have been disclosed.

As planned, the $624-million complex would have four racing venues, retail shopping, restaurants, an RV resort and related activities.

Bill Futterer of PSE-3, a Raleigh, N.C.-based marketing firm on the project, and investors’ representative Rick Edwards of Point Clear, joined Dow for the announcement.

Futterer said there’s no question they will be able to fill the facility with racing. He said interest is high among the racing sanctioning organizations that are aware of the project.

Dow said the backers of the project have looked at Branson, Mo., music halls and Myrtle Beach, S.C., entertainment venues in deciding on the race track.

“Can we be as successful as Myrtle Beach? I believe we can,” Dow said. “So there’s a lot of upside built into the kind of venues that we’re putting in this facility.”

Futterer envisions a 2,000-acre development with motorsports venues being the anchor tenant. Until construction begins, however, he cannot identify the “anchor” racing event.

Environmental issues, such as noise, highway access, traffic, and other challenges must be addressed.

Futterer said the track is the major focus, but the traffic will generate other businesses, such as hotels and shopping centers.