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Daytona International Speedway a perfect fit for Florida Sports Development Program

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In the opening weeks of 2016, Florida’s three professional football stadiums and Daytona International Speedway will each vie for taxpayer funds to help pay for upgrades, many already in progress.

Ranking the applicants — Jacksonville Jaguars, Daytona International Speedway (DIS), Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins — will be the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which has been tasked with analyzing each request through the state’s Sports Development Program.

Once rated by the DEO, results will be presented to the Florida Legislature, where lawmakers will then decide how much money (if any) a stadium will receive in 2016.

An essential element of the process is getting the top ranking by the DEO. For consideration, a facility must prove viability, by demonstrating factors like substantial job creation, proven results and significant long-term return on investment.

While three organizations made persuasive arguments in varying degrees, one rises far above the rest by providing the most compelling, well-planned and ambitious proposal — the iconic Daytona International Speedway.

A detailed look at the long-range DIS plans, and it’s clear the proposal dovetails perfectly with the overall goals of the Florida Sports Development Program.

Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III is confident his project will get the nod from the DEO.

“Our application has a significant long-term ROI for the state and several concrete benefits, including guaranteed creation of permanent jobs, an event schedule with a history of results, and ability to function as a premier sports and entertainment facility that attracts out-of-state and international sports and non-sports fans on a year-round basis,” Chitwood said in an email.

To start, the DIS application uses hard, verifiable numbers, without pie-in-the-sky plans or wishful thinking (unlike other projects under consideration). It offers nearly everything legislators could ask for: the creation of permanent jobs, an event schedule with proven results and the creation of an entertainment venue that appeals to both sports and non-sports fans.

If DEO gives approval, funding will go to DAYTONA Rising — the $400 million private investment project designed to enhance the fan experience and attract additional non-sports events, transforming DIS into a premier sports and entertainment facility.

As for a proven record of achievement, DAYTONA Rising, launched in July 2013, has already resulted in a significant positive impact on Florida’s economy.

Utilizing private capital investments, DAYTONA Rising has so far created more than 4,800 construction jobs, 92 percent of which are with residents of the Sunshine State. Seventy-seven percent of DAYTONA Rising’s 119 contractors and 80 percent of the project’s 227 vendors are Florida-based. It also boasts a broad range of local third-party supporters, including the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce, Team Volusia, and the Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Once completed, the company says DAYTONA Rising will create 500 permanent jobs, delivering approximately $320 million in labor revenue, as well as nearly $92 million in federal, state and local taxes. This is on top of more than 18,000 permanent Florida jobs, and approximately $241 million in annual tax revenue, from the combined operations of DIS and its parent company, the International Speedway Corporation (ISC).

As the anchor DIS event, DAYTONA 500 is one of the largest financial boosts in the state. Known as “The Great American Race,” the annual event brings in more than $2 million directly to local governments in state and local taxes, hotel taxes, gas taxes and sales taxes from a range of activities such as dining, shopping and hotels.

In 2015 alone, the DAYTONA 500 drew more than 67 percent of its revenue from visitors coming from outside Florida, with an economic impact of nearly $1.6 billion. DIS officials estimate that most visitors stayed in the region an average of five days.

“We look forward to what’s in store for the future of the Daytona International Speedway and the great State of Florida,” Chitwood added.

If the DEO ranks the Speedway for Sports Development funding, they will, in effect, support two projects for the money. Together with DAYTONA Rising, DIS and ISC are in the beginning stages of ONE Daytona — a mixed-use entertainment, dining and retail destination located directly across the street from the DIS.

With an initial $150 million investment, ONE Daytona has the potential to be among the region’s leading economic drivers. During construction, the development is expected to employ more than 1,700 workers, and another 900 permanent jobs upon completion.

Among the retailers and other vendors committed to ONE Daytona include Bass Pro Shops, Cobb Theaters, and an exclusive Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, drawing visitors year-round with attractions beyond the existing race schedule.

An additional feature of ONE Daytona will be a pedestrian overpass, connecting the speedway to approximately 300,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and entertainment. Plans for the property also include 125,000 square feet of office space, 380 hotel rooms and 310 residential units for both residents and guests in Daytona Beach.

When ranked by return on investment, DAYTONA Rising quickly rises to the top, delivering exactly what the Sports Development Project was envisioned to do — create Florida jobs, increase the regional tax base and provide economic opportunity all-around.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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