Pella Chronicle

February 18, 2014

Legislators, Raceway work on $2M sales tax rebate

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Columbia) has introduced a bill that would rebate up to $2 million, or no more than 25 percent of the costs, of improvements at the Knoxville Raceway. 

The bill, House File 2281 (click here) specifies the rebate would go to a raceway facility in a town with a population of more than 7,000, but no more than 7,500, in a county with 33,000 but no more than 33,450, would be eligible for sales tax rebates beginning Jan. 1, 2015, and continuing for 10 years or until the $2 million benchmark is reached. 

"The Knoxville Raceway has been a racing icon, recognized worldwide, for over half a century," Rep. Greg Heartsill said in a press release. "We draw an international crowd to the heart of central Iowa."

As the Journal-Express has previously reported, the Marion County Fair Board, owners of the Knoxville Raceway, are developing long-term plans for the race track and the fairgrounds overall. Plans being considered area  four-story building on the southeast corner of the track where the Skate Pit currently stands, an entry plaza and skywalk to existing stands, additional skyboxes, a rooftop terrace, raceway offices and retail space are also being considered. The Skate Pit would be relocated, either inside the new building or to Dyer-Hudson Hall.

One of the first steps is getting funding into place for this. Knoxville Raceway intends to make a significant investment, around $4 million, into the project. However, in response to the Legislature's past decisions to offer taxpayer support to other entertainment venues, the Raceway hired former Rep. Dave Schrader to act as a lobbyist on the track's behalf this session. Schrader is a long-term employee with the track and said that tax rebates are a way legislators prefer to offer this kind of support.

"A critical component of our project, some help in the form of funding assistance from the State, is appearing likely, thanks to great support from our legislators," Fair Board President Jason Reed said in a press release. 

This is the first time, according to Stickel, that the track has sought State financial support for a project. The Fair Board, however, has donated money to the Iowa State Fair in the past, when the State Fair was dealing with financial issues. 

Stickel said the track hopes to break ground on the project by the end of 2016. Sooner would be preferred. 

The track welcomed more than 211,000 people in 2013. The Nationals and 360 Nationals drew nearly 100,000. 

"When visiting with my colleagues in the Legislature about the prospect of this expansion, I have received a lot of supportive feedback," Heartsill said. "They recognize that this is not only a matter of importance and pride for the Knoxville area, but also for the state of Iowa." 

We'll continue to follow this story and have a full report in the Feb. 21 print edition.