December 20, 2014

Senate panel gives green light to tax break for Newton track’s new owners (AUDIO)

A Senate committee has approved a bill that would extend up to $9 million in state tax breaks to NASCAR, the new owner of the Iowa Speedway in Newton.

“We have a gem here in Iowa,” Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said during today’s committee meeting. “This is going to help NASCAR develop it further.”

NASCAR — the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing — is a private corporation that hosts races which draw tens of thousands of spectators and millions of television viewers. The corporation recently bought the track in Newton and its new manager says the plan is to turn the facility into a major tourist destination.

“NASCAR saw a real value in the Iowa Speedway, but not because of its performance, because over the years it has lost revenue and we’re all aware of that,” Dotzler said. “NASCAR knows that this track, which they are calling ‘the fastest short track on the planet’ — because it is has tremendous potential for growth and growth in our state.”

In 2005, legislators extended a state sales tax rebate to the track’s original owners, but that incentive is not available to the new owners unless this bill passes. Dotzler expects NASCAR to expand seating, improve other track facilities and ultimately offer “cup” races at the track.

“This track is generating revenues,” Dotzler said. “It’s helping our economy.”

Senator Dennis Black, a Democrat from Lynnville, suggested Newton could become an annual destination for racing fans, just like the Knoxville Nationals.

“You have people from foreign countries each year that come in great number to see those races,” Black said.

A similar state sales tax break for the Knoxville Raceway is being considered, but was not included in the bill that cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee early this afternoon. The Senate bill would give the Newton track’s new owners a rebate on the five-percent state sales tax charged on goods and services sold at the track.

AUDIO of Senate Ways & Means Committee discussion, 8:00

The original owners of the Iowa Speedway received about $3.5 million in sales tax rebates since the track opened in 2006, according to Dotzler.

A bill pending in the House Ways and Means Committee would extend the sales tax break to both tracks.