NASCAR Museum Leaves Charlotte Taxpayers Holding the Bag

Kevin Harvick AP

Back in 2010 the city fathers of Charlotte, NC, thought that they were going to experience a multitude of economic benefits from helping to pay for a new NASCAR museum. But they experienced debt and a museum under-performing expectations.

The city had to pump an additional $5 million in city money into the project to settle bank loans this past year.

“It was a bad deal for the taxpayers,” City Council member Kenny Smith told Bloomberg Business. “The city invested taxpayer money based on faulty assumptions that didn’t come to fruition.”

The city had already sold $137 million in municipal debt to help build the museum, which was expected to boost tourism.

When the museum was in the planning stages it was expected to draw 800,000 tourists in its first year and 400,000 each year there after. But thus far attendance has been a far, far lower average of 175,000 per year.

A former council member also complained that the project has been a bust for taxpayers. “It was going to be a huge economic-development project that would pay for itself. It sounded good because NASCAR is a big financial industry, but it’s a colossal failure that has harmed the taxpayers,” Don Reid said.

Other city officials defend the museum as a great success. In fact, the owner of a local hospitality marketing firm thinks it is a “loss leader” that helps bring in tourists and the expense to taxpayers is justified.

“I look at it as a loss-leader,” said Bruce Hensley. “It’s an opportunity for us to attract conventions we didn’t attract before.”

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