It sounded like a cool idea in 2005: Build the NASCAR Hall of Fame atop a bluff at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 435 near Kansas Speedway.
Economic development officials trotted out their voodoo math to show how the community could reap tens of millions of dollars a year from tourism for investing in the hall. Politicians got aboard the boosterism train as Kansas City, Kan., battled Atlanta, Charlotte, Richmond, Va., and Daytona Beach, Fla.
But Charlotte won the competition the next year and NASCAR gave up a golden chance to expand its brand in the Midwest.
Yet it turns out this wasn’t a happy-ever-after story for the $195 million hall, which was publicly financed through a new hotel tax. As the Charlotte Business Journal reported this week, reality has fallen short of the hype.
Attendance — originally predicted at 800,000 people a year — didn’t even reach 170,000 in the 2014 fiscal year, and that was down from prior years.
The hall’s deficit was $1.4 million this year, just a hair better than the $1.6 million deficit in 2013 and the $1.5 million loss in its first year.
Naturally, its backers say the hall in Charlotte will be a success in the long run.
Still, given the recent decline in NASCAR’s popularity, this might be one costly civic project that Kansas City, Kan., was fortunate to lose.