Cabarrus County officials expect to hear by Thanksgiving whether billionaire Bruton Smith really will move Lowe's Motor Speedway out of Concord.
Smith has threatened to spend $350 million to move the track elsewhere in the Charlotte region after a dispute with the Concord City Council over his plans to build a drag strip at the speedway.
The council has since retreated from its opposition to the drag strip and wants Smith also to proceed with plans for extensive renovations at the track.
One of the many ideas being floated to keep Smith in town is to have the speedway area become part of a new tax increment financing district, said John Cox, chief executive of the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp.
Such a designation, fairly new to North Carolina, lets governments issue bonds without voter approval in order to pay for some public projects within a specific district, such as infrastructure improvements. New tax revenue generated in the district is used toward paying the bond debt.
Smith developed his Texas speedway with a TIF district, Cox said. Such a district also is in place in Kannapolis, where billionaire David Murdock is building the $1.5 billion North Carolina Research Campus.
Cox said Smith told him he intends to make a decision on whether to move before Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22.
Cabarrus officials also are hoping for state help, especially in the area of road improvements around the speedway. The state has not said what, if anything, it would offer Smith to stay.
Local incentives for the drag strip could be worth up to $2.4 million, depending on how the deal is structured. It's unclear how much more money Smith could get for expanding the speedway.
Other ways Cabarrus officials are trying to persuade Smith to stay are working to get Speedway Boulevard renamed after him and potentially putting a racing-themed welcome center near the track.
Cox has said Smith is considering three or more places for a possible move but is not considering any other sites now. Cabarrus officials are concerned that South Carolina could offer millions of dollars in incentives to cross the state line, possibly to the Rock Hill area.
The track is a big moneymaker, last year accounting for $169 million in tourism spending in Cabarrus County.
Smith was not available for comment Thursday.
Other plans hinge on speedway's fate
Local officials aren't the only ones waiting for Bruton Smith to make up his mind.
Some other development plans in Cabarrus County remain in limbo while Smith decides the fate of Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Charles Johnson Jr. of Statesville had considered putting a boutique hotel in Kannapolis at the K-Town Furniture site, but those plans fell through, said Kannapolis City Manger Mike Legg and DeSales Wagster, chief executive of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Johnson then was eyeing the Speedway Boulevard area for a hotel. But that decision is on hold until after Smith makes his plans clear, Wagster said. Johnson was not available for comment.
The K-Town site likely is the last piece of downtown Kannapolis property not owned by billionaire David Murdock, who is building the $1.5 billion North Carolina Research Campus.
K-Town President Fred Morrison said Thursday that other groups were interested in the site but declined further comment. If the property is sold, the K-Town business would move to property on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.