Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Economic impact remains low

October 3, 2001

Although most speculation indicated the new Kansas Speedway would signal a boom in economic growth in the area, several local businesses and governments have yet to feel the positive effects of the track.

"I really don't think it has had any impact yet," Basehor Chamber of Commerce president Susan Guy said. "I think it will in the future when there is more commercial development, but right now there hasn't been much."

The track recently completed its first major race of the year during the weekend of Sept. 29 and 30. Crowds upward of 200,000 attended the Saturday and Sunday races.

For the track to bring significant revenue to Basehor, Guy said the city would need a stronger commercial base that would include retail, hotels and restaurants.

"Basically, you have to have something that people coming to the track are looking for, and that is some place to stay and some place to eat," Guy said. "You have to have some place for them to stay that is close by and right now most of them are staying in Johnson County."

Several local businesses agreed with Guy's statements.

Bill Bucholz, owner of Kelly's Bar and Grill, said his restaurant was busy during the weekend, but the customers were not his normal clientele.

"We had some good increases for the weekend," Bucholz said. "We were full and busier longer, but I think some people didn't come out because they didn't want to venture out because of the traffic."

Bucholz agreed that a stronger commercial base would help bring in more customers, but those ventures would have to be supported by something other than the racetrack.

"It always helps, but it takes more than the track weekend to support it," he said. "Another hotel would help, but where is the support going to come from the rest of the year."

For some businesses like Holyfield Winery and Vineyard located on 158th Street in Basehor, the past weekend's race was only slightly beneficial.

Winery owner Michelle Meyer said the race track did purchase wine from her business but the track also disrupted her normal customers from coming to the winery.

"The way the traffic flows, it makes it hard for businesses that are west of the track," Meyer said. "I think in the future the impact will be greater to the area than it is now."

For purposes of bringing in business, Meyer said the Renaissance Festival does more for the winery than the racetrack does.

Although it hasn't had the effects on her business like some thought it would, Meyer said she remains hopeful the track will deliver customers like it should.

"I don't think we have seen the full potential of it," Meyer said. "In the long run, I can see it having more benefits than it does now."

Bichelmeyer's Grocery, 155th Street and Kansas Highway 24/40, felt no positive effects from the weekend events.

Store manager Don Call said there were no significant raises in either grocery or gas sales during the race day weekend.

"There wasn't anything that we could tell," Call said. "It hasn't had any economic effect on us at all."

While the effects in the city of Basehor have been minimal, city of Leavenworth officials said they were taking a more cautious approach when discussing the positive or negative influences of the track.

"It is probably too early to tell," Leavenworth City Manager Gary Ortiz said. "I am not sure what the impacts are at this point. We are still in the process of researching and studying them."

Ortiz did say that the hotel occupancy rates for the city were up during race weekends.

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