NASCAR sets sights on land next to Bremerton, Wash., airport

Bremerton International Airport (PWT) in Bremerton, Wash., may soon have a new neighbor: a NASCAR speedway.

International Speedway Corp. has secured an option to buy land near the airport for a track. The land is private property and covered with woods and brush. PWT, a non-towered airport, is a few miles west of Seattle in rural Kitsap County.

Just hours after the news broke, airport manager Fred Salisbury said he received emails from pilots based at the airport who are concerned about temporary flight restrictions and airport closures on race days. “People are concerned,” he said.

The Port of Bremerton operates the airport. Port officials were aware that the land south of the airport was being looked at by ISC as part of its effort to build a racing venue in the Pacific Northwest. Bremerton is the ISC’s second choice in the area. The first choice was land near Arlington Municipal Airport (AWO) in Snohomish County north of Seattle. That idea was dropped when citizens and officials balked at spending $200 million in public money on the project. The ISC was willing to contribute just $50 million to the $250 million price tag.

ISC officials said the issue of how to fund the Bremerton track is being discussed with state and local officials.

Salisbury notes the track, which will host at least two NASCAR events a year, could be a positive thing for the airport because many fans, as well as drivers, arrive by air and use airport services, such as fuel, maintenance and the restaurant.

“I have heard that up to 300 aircraft, including corporate jets, can come in on race days and, of course, they will be buying fuel,” he said. “Currently we don’t have the room for that many aircraft and we would have to do some improvements to the airport to accommodate them all. That’s another thing the Kitsap County and the Port commissions would have to consider — who will pay for all that infrastructure?”

If the acquisition of the property goes without a hitch, ISC could start construction as early as 2007.

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