Now that baseball games are a thing of the past at Cooper Stadium, the Southwest Area Commission (SWAC) has begun discussing the potential of the Coop being transformed into a racetrack at their Sept. 17 meeting.
John Kennedy, attorney for Arshot Investments, which is owned by the Schottenstein family, said Arshot will hire a national noise expert to see how the noise from a a racetrack would effect the area in the next couple weeks, which will help Arshot decide if running a racetrack is a possibility and what type of racing would work best.
“Mr. Schottenstein is considering the concept of a NASCAR-type racetrack with other uses there. Hotels, restaurants and all-year-round uses, which he hasn’t formulated yet,” said Kennedy. “Right now we don’t even have a concept because we want to wait until we get the results from the noise study to see what we can do, what we can’t do there,” said Kennedy.
James Shimmer, director of the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department, said the county wants to make sure the decision is a public process so a committee of sorts from different walks of the area will be appointed to recommend a qualified noise expert to the developer.
“We’ll get the Southwest Area Commission involved, we’ll get the Franklinton Board of Trade involved, representatives from the development department of the city will be involved,” said Shimmer.
The group will then put forward the names of three qualified noise experts to the developer as prospects.
Shimmer admitted since the developer is putting up the money for the noise expert, they have the option of going with their own choice, but the community has an opportunity to give their input in the decision.
“The point is we as a community have the ability to make a recommendation to them as to who we feel is the best consultant,” said Shimmer.
One thing that the forces for or against the development of a racetrack can agree on is that everyone wants to see Cooper Stadium developed somehow, but that is where the agreement ends.
Regina Acosta Tobin, a spokesperson for ROAR Columbus, (Re-develop Our Area Responsibly), came to the meeting to express the groups’ concerns about the noise impact on the community.
ROAR, according to Acosta Tobin, is made up of area business members, realtors, community organizations and citizens concerned about the effect a racetrack would have on the neighborhood and the group plans to pay for their own independent noise study to ensure accurate results.
“As we all know, he who pays for something gets what they want, and we want to make sure it’s done responsibly. A motor speedway is a very loud venue and the sound travels incredibly long distances; and it could be devastating to our community if we don’t look into this,” said Acosta Tobin. “We want to make sure that’s its science. The results should be the same. If you do a noise impact study, both should pretty much come to the same conclusion and we want to ensure that.”
Acosta Tobin said ROAR has raised $12,500 to do such as study, but she estimates the cost will be around $20,000 altogether. ROAR determined that usually a study like this costs around $10,000 but in this case, the cost is higher since the developer does not have a firm concept of what kind of racing he is planning or how the layout will work.
She said the group is trying to offer alternatives to the developer for Cooper Stadium.
“We’re not opposed to the development. We’re glad he bought this property. We are so excited that’s he’s purchased it. We just want him to develop it responsibly with all the neighbors in mind,” said Acosta Tobin.
SWAC Chair Ralph Horn said he wants more information before he makes any decisions on whether a racetrack would be a good or bad idea for the area, such as how many jobs such a proposal would bring to the community.
Horn said this is not something that the county will approve anytime soon.
“I think there will have to be a lot of convincing before it ever happens,” said Horn.