KANSAS CITY, KAN. The racing season is over, but there is plenty of rumbling near Kansas Speedway.
It's the sound of economic development, with the likes of Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela's and the Great Wolf Lodge anchoring an anticipated $500 million investment on 400 acres near the speedway.
Wednesday, officials broke ground on a 700,000-square-foot Nebraska Furniture Mart, expected to open in time for the NASCAR Winston Cup race in 2003. The ceremony came amid a slumping economy, when many companies are scaling back operations.
"This is the type of decision that if it makes sense before a recession, it certainly makes sense during a recession," said Ron Blumkin, president of Nebraska Furniture Mart.
The store will create 475 jobs, Blumkin said.
Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer, who also serves as the state's secretary of commerce and housing, said the speedway had been the catalyst for growth in Wyandotte County and sustaining the state's economic engine.
"In times when we read about companies laying off, we're developing here," Sherrer said.
Jeff Boerger, Kansas Speedway's vice president and general manager, said the inaugural season exceeded expectations, with more than 100,000 people attending September's NASCAR Winston Cup race. Ticket sales for 2002 are ahead of expectations.
The $250 million speedway was the first new 1.5-mile track built by owner International Speedway Corp. in 30 years. More than 3,000 people worked at the speedway in 2001.
The tourism district is being developed by Zimmer Management Co., with private investment of nearly $180 million and public revenue bonds worth another $160 million.