Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Race Facility Could Produce Economic Lift

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Race Facility Could Produce Economic Lift

Article excerpt

If Gateway International Raceway builds a new dragstrip capable of playing host to one of the National Hot Rod Association's Winston Drag Racing Series National events, the St. Louis area could expect a $20 million to $25 million boon to the economy.

Dallas Gardner, chief executive of the NHRA, dropped those numbers on a gathering of local civic and political leaders at a luncheon Monday at the Noon Day Club in St. Louis.

"We have 19 national events, and they have economic impact," Gardner said. "They bring people into the city."

The NHRA owns several motorsports complexes, including the highly-successful Indianapolis Raceway Park. Gardner said the St. Louis market is ripe for such a facility.

Without making any promises of bringing a national event here if Gateway materializes into a first-rate facility, Gardner explained that the St. Louis market automatically would be among the top third on the NHRA schedule, which has events in such major markets as Los Angeles (Pomona, Calif.), Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Seattle and Dallas.

"Let me zero in a little bit on a national event," Gardner said. "There will be between 500 and 700 cars entered, including 100 pros who travel from city to city with us. It's a four-day event, from Thursday through Sunday, and our average attendance (for the four days) is 96,000. Our 18 races in 1994 drew 1.7 million. We have over 125 companies that participate at each national event. The purse is $1 million per event."

Anheuser-Busch is heavily involved in NHRA racing, as the sponsor of Kenny Bernstein's Top Fuel team and also as a series sponsor.

"The importance of the NHRA to us is fairly simple," said Mike Hargrave, director of motorsports for Anheuser-Busch. "We sell beer and the demographics of the NHRA are on target with beer drinkers.

Hargrave said, "Don't tell the (Cardinals) this, but fans in motor sports like us being there. …

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