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By Kevin Kelly
The Kentucky Enquirer
SPARTA - The rows of tobacco and corn growing on land across from Kentucky Speedway will be replaced next year by rows of cars.
This week the speedway bought a large tract near Ky. 35 in Gallatin County from Jo Wischer. The 84-year-old Florence resident did not say Thursday how much the speedway paid for the “couple hundred acres,” but said she knows how it intends to use the property.
“The speedway will be taking care of parking with it,” Wischer said.
A fleet of earth-moving equipment was staged next to the weather-beaten tobacco barn on the 219-acre property formerly owned by Wischer. The tract includes 144 acres north of Interstate 71.
Miles-long backups formed along the interstate and other roadways leading to the track for the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race July 9. Fans still stuck in traffic when the traffic pattern was switched were turned away.
Speedway officials blamed part of the problem on parking lots reaching capacity faster than anticipated as more than 107,000 fans converged on the venue for the Quaker State 400. The speedway sits on 843 acres and has 10 parking lots that hold 33,000 cars.
Speedway and state officials vowed to fix the problems and have met since the race. But little has been said publicly.
Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger declined comment Thursday except to say that details would be forthcoming next week.
The chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company that owns Kentucky Speedway, offered clues earlier this month when SMI released its second-quarter report.
“We are already progressing on improving and expanding on-site road systems, available parking, restroom and other facilities at the speedway, as well as working with the state of Kentucky to help improve surrounding roadways,” Bruton Smith said in a news release.
Kentucky Speedway opened in 2000 and was sold to SMI in 2008. According to records from the Gallatin County Property Valuation Administrator’s office, Wischer bought the property for $115,000 in 1989. It was valued at $500,000 earlier this year, PVA records show.
This was not the first time an interested party came calling, she said.
“We’ve been approached for years,” Wischer said. “Everybody and their uncle. Some of the biggest names in the Greater Cincinnati area that, if I told you, you’d be surprised. We’re used to that.”
Why sell now?
“Well, my husband is 90 and I’m 84,” she said. “We thought it’s about time we did something with it.”
There are numerous “for sale” signs in the area surrounding the speedway.
Holly Isenhour, a Realtor with RE/MAX Affiliates, is the listing agent for a property adjacent to the Wischer property. Offered at $49,000, it includes a house and one acre of land. The property is under contract, she said. But when it was available, Isenhour said she spoke with speedway officials.
Larry Lawrence owns a considerable amount of property around the speedway, including 30 acres that border the former Wischer property. It was transformed into a campground on race week. Business must’ve been good, because Lawrence isn’t interested in selling it.
But as for the more than 1,400 acres behind the speedway’s main parking areas that he owns with others, that’s a different story. It’s not listed, but it is for sale.
“You could accomplish a lot of things with that,” said Lawrence, a lawyer and business owner in Gallatin County. “You could build the airport they’ve been talking about around here for years. You have all the camping and parking that you could ever imagine there. ... It would never be overwhelmed or too little or out of room or no more parking. That would never happen again.
“That’s the one they need, and they really haven’t addressed that one very much. Well, at all. They haven’t addressed that at all, I don’t think. Nothing that we’ve heard.”
Lawrence is confident Kentucky Speedway officials will not allow a repeat of the problems experienced July 9.
“They’ll resolve that parking issue,” he said. “There’s land all the way around them. They’ve got plenty of room to grow. They have room to get as big as they want to be.”
- Courtesy Kentucky News Content Service