The Henry County Commission last week approved an Atlanta Motor Speedway request for $3.25 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for upgrades and improvements to the south metro Atlanta racetrack.
Operators of the Speedway said they will use the money to repave aging parking lots, remodel the facility’s media center, upgrade the grandstand concourse, beef up Internet and Wi-fi connectivity and construct a more prominent sign for the racetrack.
Brandon Hutchison, general manager and executive vice president of the Speedway, said the Hampton destination lost about $9.5 million during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the racetrack limited events because of safety concerns.
The addition of a second NASCAR race in 2021 — one of the most lucrative races — was not enough to offset the loses. But to keep the race, the facility must make infrastructure improvements to keep NASCAR from awarding it to competitors, he said.
“Infrastructure upkeep, maintenance and improvements is what it takes to keep any facility going, whether it’s a county facility, a private facility or commercial facility,” he said.
The board voted 4-1 to approve the measure, with District 4 Commissioner Vivian Thomas opposing the funding.
“I think this board needs to consider those things that are top priorities ... before we can consider doing something else,” she said. Thomas said addressing infrastructure and social challenges are more pressing needs than updates at the Speedway.
District 1 Commissioner Johnny Wilson countered that the Speedway is a major generator of tax revenue for the county. The Henry County Finance Department estimated that the Speedway brings in about $4 million in sales taxes on each race.
“If you consider the property tax and the sales tax that the Speedway generates, that is a huge chunk of the overall tax revenue in the county,” Wilson said.