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Thu August 04, 2011 - Midwest Edition
FORSYTH, Mo. (AP) The man who has faced strong criticism for his plans to build a $150 million motor speedway near Branson in southern Missouri will meet with Arkansas economic development officials to discuss options for moving the project to that state, his spokesman said.
Russell Cook, of Hollister, Mo., has cleared about 70 acres about 2 mi. (3.2 km) from the Missouri-Arkansas border in Taney County for the proposed 1.25-mi. (2 km) track, with plans to bring NASCAR races to the track after it is completed in 2013. He planned to meet with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission on July 15, spokesman Nathan Adams said.
“We will not deny that we have a planned meeting with Arkansas state officials in Little Rock,” Adams told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on July 12.
He said Cook signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Arkansas economic commission, which requested financial information about the speedway proposal. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas agency, told the newspaper he couldn’t comment.
The project is planned for an 800-acre site near Ridgedale, Mo., about 2 mi. from the Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake.
Several opponents, including Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, say the project would bring too much noise and traffic to the scenic Ozark region. Supporters contend the track would bring much needed jobs and economic development to the area.
Cook said he intends to build the speedway in Missouri but he has to consider all his options.
“I’ll be honest, because I’ve lived up here all my life I’d like to see it up here,” Cook said. “But it has got to be a business decision. We’re going to build a racetrack. Whether it’s here or down the road a little farther south has yet to be determined.”
Cook hinted at several possible locations in Arkansas, most in the central region of the state.
About 400 people attended a six-hour public hearing of the Taney County Planning and Zoning Commission July 11 in Forsyth. The commissioners were scheduled to vote on the proposal July 18.
Bob Atchley, Taney County’s planning administrator, said based on applause for different comments made at the hearing, the crowd seemed evenly split on the proposed racetrack. Cook did not attend the meeting.
Bryan Wade of Springfield, Mo., an attorney representing Big Cedar Lodge, noted Cook’s previous unsuccessful attempts to develop projects in the area. Land was cleared for Tuscany on the Lake, a condominium development on Table Rock Lake, and TanStone Plaza, a commercial development in Branson, but no buildings have been constructed.
“The land has been scarred and no development has occurred,” Wade said.
Wade also said Cook has not been forthcoming about funding sources for the proposed speedway.
Cook has said he has funding lined up but has declined to reveal the sources.
Tom Gammon, director of construction and development for Branson Sports Entertainment Complex — the name of the proposed speedway — said the 1.9 million people who live within 100 mi. of the proposed site would provide enough business to make the track and adjacent development profitable.
Noise was one of the main concerns expressed at the meeting.
Representatives of HNTB Corp. of Kansas City, Mo., which is working for the developer, said noise from the track would be 30 to 45 decibels by the time it reached Big Cedar Lodge.
Keith Crawford, who lives a half-mile from the proposed track, said the noise during a race would be 60 to 70 decibels at his house.
“That’s approximately five times louder than the normal ambient level and three times louder than conversations,” he said.