North Carolina to spend $45M in taxpayer funds to help racetracks affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
Gov. Roy Cooper is “celebrating the return of racing” and taxpayers will spend $45.8 million to help 17 motorsports venues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, though policy experts contend the tax dollars could be put to better use.
“North Carolina’s speedways are strong economic drivers for communities across the state that bring friends, families, and neighbors together for a rip-roaring good time,” Cooper said during a visit to North Wilkesboro Speedway to highlight a state-funded restoration project. “North Wilkesboro Speedway is just one of many racetracks that will be able to cross the finish line on much-needed repairs with these state funds — racing on these tracks is back and here to stay.”
Cooper toured the track Tuesday with NASCAR icons, Speedway Motorsports President Marcus Smith and other officials to announce funds included in the state budget to ritualize speedways across North Carolina. North Wilkesboro Speedway will receive $18 million in American Rescue Plan funding, while 15 local governments will get $45.8 million to help 17 motorsports venues recover from the pandemic.
“The money can be used for water, sewer and other infrastructure projects pertaining to the speedways,” according to a Cooper news release. “The grants will enhance local tourism, travel and hospitality industries that benefit from the many motorsports events held in North Carolina.”
North Wilkesboro Speedway is slated to reopen with a “Racetrack Revival” in August after sitting largely abandoned in recent years. August will feature a month of grassroots racing on the current pavement, which will then be removed before racing will return on the original dirt in October.
“North Carolina is the birthplace of motorsports and NASCAR,” said North Carolina Commerce Chief Deputy Secretary Jordan Whichard. “The industry contributes millions to our economy, employs thousands of North Carolinians, and offers special training through our state’s colleges, universities, and technical schools. With these new investments, motorsports can positively outpace its pre-pandemic impact.”
The impact from the pandemic, however, is due in large part to executive actions taken by the Cooper administration, said Brian Balfour, senior vice president for The John Locke Foundation.
“Gov. Cooper is trying to reimburse businesses like motorsports venues that he forcibly closed during the pandemic,” Balfour said. “Rather than burden taxpayers for his decision, a better approach would have been to allow these venues to make their own decisions about hosting events.
“Moreover, this move reinforces Cooper’s reputation for selectively rewarding certain businesses at taxpayer expense, as he has demonstrated with massive corporate welfare deals such as Apple and the Vietnamese EV battery maker VinFast.”
The $18 million grant for North Wilkesboro Speedway is the largest, followed by a $13 million grant for the Charlotte Motor Speedway and $9 million for the Rockingham Speedway. The rest of the grants range from $39,738 for the Orange County Speedway to $583,586 for GALOT Motorsports Park.
A full list of the motorsports grants is available on the North Carolina Department of Commerce website.
This article was originally posted on North Carolina to spend $45M in taxpayer funds to help racetracks affected by the COVID-19 pandemic