Friday, April 25th, 2014

Commission green flags race track

Messenger photos by Whitney Wilson Coy
The Southwest Area Comission voted to support the possible redevlopment of Cooper Stadium into a racing complex, an issue that has sparked controversy among nearby residents.
The formerly bustling entryway of the stadium is now overgrown with weeds.

When Arshot Investment Corp. announced they wanted to redevelop Cooper Stadium and turn it into a racing complex in 2008, noise concerns propelled several civic associations near the vicinity of the former ballpark to oppose Arshots plans. 

Up until now, the Southwest Area Commission has remained relatively mum on where they stand with the issue, but after hosting two community forums with proponents and opponents of the multi-purpose racing complex and after going through the reports from two noise study experts (one commissioned by Arshot, the other commissioned by opposition group Redevelop Our Area Responsibly), the commission passed a motion to vote in favor of the redevelopment at their June 16 meeting. 

Chairman Jason Waltke said he was initially against the idea of having a racing complex at Cooper Stadium, but has since been swayed after thinking of the positive impact a $40 million investment would have on the economic development of the area. He mentioned it would change the current landscape of Mound Street, which is filled with potholesas big as my car, and would create numerous job opportunities for residents. 

Commissioner Ralph Horn was also in favor of the redevelopment. 

“The real fact of the matter is that we are sitting here with a huge white elephant that we are still paying taxes on and its in an area that will go downhill more and more, he said.

“I dont think it (the redevelopment) can do anything but beautify the area. Development is contagious and I can see Mound Street developing into a nice area. 

Horn added that if Arshots plans fall through, he does not believe the area will ever be developed.  

The other commissioners who were in support of the redevelopment were Clyde Miller, Rita Miller, Juanita Kaufman, Jennifer Miller and Stefanie Coe. Those opposed were Kathleen Williamson-Thacker, Ed Walters and Kathy Hatfield. 

“I feel that the noise would be too great for the people over there, said Walters.

Walters also said he does not foresee the developers putting millions of dollars worth of sound barriers around the track like noise study constant Chris Menge said Arshot would do during the April 21 community forum.  

Menge said there would be two sound barriers up to 35-feet surrounding the Cooper Park complex that would trap noise inside the racetrack. Menge also said the racetrack noise would not likely reach above 65 decibels with the barriers in place. 

Each of the commissioners in favor of the development said the potential noise generated from the racetrack is still a concern to them, but they believe that it could be abated by the sound barrier walls, design of the facility, location of the building, hours of operation, maximum sound levels and the execution of a good neighbor agreement. 

“Arshot is open and willing to negotiate all kind of things, said Coe. 

The commission added that even though the motion to support the redevelopment passed, they reserve the right to change their mind if they do not agree with any changes Arshot makes to their current development plans.  

Currently, the multi-purpose complex would include a half-mile racetrack, hotel, restaurant, conference center, an automotive dealership and an automotive research and technical training center.

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