BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
A state Senate committee may give the green flag on $60 million in tax breaks to Daytona International Speedway over the next 30 years if a bill being heard in committee becomes law.
The Commerce and Tourism Committee gave support to the proposal (SB 208), which sponsor Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, called a job creator for Florida.
“This is a real economic driver not only for the county that I represent, but the entire state,” Hukill said.
If passed, the Speedway would join the ranks of other Florida sports agencies in tax breaks, including the NBA’s Orlando Magic and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The rebates could be made available right away since the Speedway is investing between $375 and $400 million for the major “Daytona Rising” facelift, which is providing 363 jobs.
The project is being designed to create a state-of-the-art racing experience along the Speedway’s nearly mile-long frontstretch.
In the past year, the Speedway has held minority forums to invite subcontractors from minority backgrounds to participate in the project.
Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said the company has been focused on creating opportunities for local communities and particularly minority and women-owned businesses throughout Florida.
“Daytona Rising represents a significant economic boost and we are grateful to have such talented and hard-working business partners from all areas of the community helping to transform our vision into a reality, which benefits everyone,” Chitwood said.
The proposal to direct $2 million a year in state sales-tax dollars for improvements at Daytona International Speedway went unopposed through its first turn in the Florida Senate this week.
“Over 60 percent of the visitors” to the annual Daytona 500 “are from outside the state, generating new tax dollars,’’ Hukill stated. Work began in July and is expected to include new entrances, expanded entertainment concourses, increased refreshment and concession areas and wider seating.
It is expected to be completed by January 2016. The changes will cut seating by about 46,000 seats to 101,000. A similar proposal in the 2013 session died as lawmakers blocked requests to direct state sales-tax money into a number of stadium projects, including improvements for Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens and EverBank Field in Jacksonville, and construction of a soccer stadium in Orlando.
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity Florida has called the use of sales-tax money for stadium construction and improvements a “handout” to millionaires. No opposition was raised during Wednesday’s committee meeting.
A similar bill failed last year. However, sponsors in both the state Senate and House said this year it may become law.
A report from the News Service of Florida was used in compiling this report.