|By Doug Smith, The Charlotte Observer,
N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 1, 2009--An investment group wants to revitalize the race track at the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo in north Charlotte and make it the centerpiece of a new $50 million amateur sports and tourism destination.
Speedway Investment Group, based in Mooresville, said Monday that the Metrolina Speed and Sport Center could generate 150 jobs in the Derita community.
Simon Weber, president, said the group plans to buy 40 of Metrolina's 146 acres and complete the initial phase by April 2010 to coincide with the NASCAR Hall of Fame opening in uptown Charlotte.
The land purchase is contingent on a rezoning expected to be voted on by the City Council on June 15.
Weber, who is using institutional funding to help finance the development, said it would celebrate Metrolina's history, which dates to the 1960s, embrace green technology and attract national and international sports competitions.
Councilman James Mitchell Jr., whose District 2 includes the property off Old Statesville Road, supports the project and is meeting with Derita residents to discuss it.
"It's a great way for people who have lived there for over 40 years to feel good about the community," he said.
"Amateur sports and family tourism are top priorities for the economic development committee that I serve as vice chair of," Mitchell said. "So this one project helps accomplish both."
The initial phase would include a 40,000-square-foot building with ground level retail and a rooftop skateboard park, a three-eights mile progressively banked asphalt track, a karting facility and a "drifting" course on which drivers oversteer to cause cars to lose traction and skid.
Weber said the sports complex would accommodate racing configurations from go-karts to late model stock cars and include outdoor and indoor radio controlled car tracks, grandstands and 4,000 parking spaces.
A second construction phase would include 55,000 square feet for restaurant and food services, a 55,000-square-foot conference center, an indoor electric karting facility, 150 hotel rooms and 30,000 square feet of office space.
Wes Jones, president of ai Design Group Inc., project architect, said he believes the combination of indoor and outdoor uses on a single site is unique in the industry.
"This is really all about amateur motor sports and how you get your start in the industry," he said.
Linda Wells Pistone, whose family is selling the 40 acres, said other activities -- from gun shows to concerts -- will continue as usual at Metrolina Tradeshow Expo.
Her family has owned the land since 1965, and car races were run there until about three years ago.
"I wanted to utilize this area," Pistone said. "I'm excited about the jobs the sports center will create for this area."
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