Daytona Speedway tax deal gets Senate committee green light

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The race against the legislative clock is on for Daytona International Speedway and other sports venues seeking state sales tax dollars, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

A measure (SB 1394) that could land more than $60 million in sales tax rebates for the speedway was unanimously supported by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Monday.

Officials for the racetrack said the money is needed to help the complex – which annually hosts what is considered NASCAR’s most prestigious race – “remain relevant.”

Still, committee Chairwoman Sen. Nancy Detert cautioned that the speedway may be “late to the party” against the other ventures and as a ranking system for stadium sales tax rebates is also in the legislative pipeline.

With four weeks remaining in the session, the bill has three additional committee stops – the Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee and the Appropriations and Rules committees. Meanwhile, the House companion (HB 1049) has only been heard in one committee, the Finance and Tax Subcommittee.

But backers of the proposal, out in force at the committee meeting Monday, remain confident the measure can weave through the legislative traffic.

“We’ve got time, the session moves, things happen,” said the measure’s sponsor Sen. Dorothy Hukill. 

Hukill also downplayed concerns about a proposal (SB 406) by Sen. Andy Gardiner which would require the state Department of Economic Opportunity to rank the economic impact of organizations seeking the government assistance and the potential economic impacts of the stadium work.

The Miami Dolphins are seeking $3 million a year in sales tax rebates (SB 306) for Sun Life Stadium improvements, while $2 million a year has also been requested for both EverBank Field in Jacksonville (HB 721) and for the construction of a stadium in Central Florida (HB 219) with a goal of attracting a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

Similar to Daytona, each stadium proposal is for 30 years.

“I don’t want to put one against the other,” Hukill said, “but we’d be a very, very high ranking by the fact that the investment is more than double or triple most of the other proposals. Plus we’re asking for all the (construction) money after we spend the money.”

In addition to the $2 million a year in sales tax rebates, the speedway is also seeking refunds on sales taxes for construction materials – estimated at $10 million – that under Hukill’s proposal can only be requested after the more-than $250 million project is completed.

International Speedway Corporation, the owner of the speedway, plans to use the sales tax money to offset some of the improvements planned for the raceway, which may include an overhaul of the front-stretch grandstand and a redesigned midway.

“We think it’s important that we remain relevant in the marketplace,” ISC President John Saunders said during a teleconference call last Thursday. “You see across the country that sports stadiums are evolving with modern amenities.”

The potential modern amenities for Daytona include wider seating, plush luxury boxes and enhanced Wi-Fi service.

The Senate committee vote comes after International Speedway Corporation announced last Thursday that the net income for the company during the first quarter of 2013, which included the 55th running of the Daytona 500, was $13.5 million. 

The net total was down from the $17.1 million reported for the same period a year earlier.

In its release and during the teleconference call, Saunders claimed that the speedway and other company operations in Daytona Beach generate $1.6 billion annually for Florida.

The company, which also owns Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, reported that its overall revenue for the first three months of 2013 was $128.6 million, a $1.2 million increase from the same period a year earlier.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.