Pima County tosses out plans for Formula 1

But fairgrounds might sport a 'Grade 2' pro racetrack
2013-07-12T00:00:00Z Pima County tosses out plans for Formula 1Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Pima County officials are still dreaming about a privately financed racetrack near the fairgrounds. But Formula One racing is no longer part of the fantasy.

Formula One racing is off the table because it is too expensive to build all the amenities required for that level of racing, and the possibility of securing a Grade 1 license from the French-based Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile is doubtful, said county spokeswoman Diane Luber.

So instead, the county is looking for a developer to pour at least $15 million into turning 400 acres south of the Pima County Fairgrounds into a professional racetrack, which could earn a "Grade 2 Complex" certification from the international racing federation.

The track, expected to be at least three miles long, could accommodate various types of open-wheel racing. This would include Indy-type cars, sports cars and motorcycles, as well as NASCAR.

With the paved NASCAR track at the Tucson Speedway, the Southwestern International Dragway and the Musselman Honda Circuit already at the fairgrounds, county planners are looking for ways to complement existing attractions.

The county has been looking to expand racing facilities next to the fairgrounds since at least 2010, according to county documents.

Last week, the Pima County Board of Supervisors gave the green light to staffers to seek bids to build and operate a professional racetrack.

Recently released documents from the county require the prospective developer to build at least a 3-mile championship automotive racecourse, track lighting, pit road, pit area and any other requirements mandated to qualify for a FIA Grade 2 license. Additionally, the developer would need to provide amenities such as grandstands, restrooms and concessions in exchange for a long-term lease with the county.

Rent, according to the county documents, would be $137,000 a year or 2 percent of gross revenues, whichever is greater.

The county may be able to offer some economic incentives to the developer of the racetrack, but county officials were not willing to elaborate.

The county would also allow the developer to sell naming rights to the facility, with one important stipulation - the name must contain the words "Pima County."

An open house to discuss the proposal will be held on July 23 at the Sunset Cantina, which is at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

Viable bids from developers could go before the board as soon as late this year.

On StarNet: Go to azstarnet.com/ politics to read more about local and state government and political news

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346.

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