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They should start showing up sometime around 4 p.m. July 8.
They will be coming in trucks, campers, mini-vans and RVs.
For them, it’s more than a weekend trip. It’s something more akin to a pilgrimage.
They will roll across the region with a singular site in mind. Two things will be on their minds — having fun and racing.
After years of wrangling, the top echelon of professional auto racing will be coming to northern Kentucky.
And with it will come plenty of followers, their pockets bulging with cash, ready, willing and able to leave a hunk in Owen County.
If we are ready to take it.
In August, Gov. Steve Beshear and the ownership of Kentucky Speedway announced a package of tax incentives to add about 60,000 seats to the Sparta facility. The cost of the renovations alone would be from $90 to $100 million.
Let’s consider some of the numbers for a moment.
They are adding 40,000 seats.
The number of campsites will nearly quadruple from 1,200 to 4,500.
If the Speedway is full, and most Sprint Cup events do sell out, up to 160,000 visitors could be coming pretty close to Owen County and Owenton.
If our community can get some of those people to buy one tank of gas, eat one meal or just spend a few dollars at the stores and shops in Owen County, it could easily mean an additional $1 million pumped into the local economy.
Not bad for a single weekend.
When I lived in Corbin, whenever there was a major race at the track in Bristol, Tenn., the local restaurants would be packed. The traffic would get clogged with visitors. Without consulting a schedule, you always knew there was a big race that weekend.
Corbin does have the benefit of an interstate running right beside it, something Owenton doesn’t have.
But Owen County does have the advantage of proximity.
No one expects each and every race fan to come through Owenton on their way to Sparta. Unfortunately, the roadways don’t favor us in that way.
But Owen County can still benefit for this influx of people and cash.
We just need a plan.
With major changes to both the Owenton City Council and the Owen County Fiscal Court as a fallout from this year’s election, organizing a way to exploit the NASCAR nation to our benefit would be a great starting point to show people this is a forward-looking community and we know how to take advantage of an opportunity.
There are civic groups, such as Leadership Owen County and the Owen County Chamber of Commerce, that are constantly looking for ways to promote the community. They could be invaluable resources.
Let’s all work together to exploit this opportunity.
Speaking of the local economy ...
Christmas shopping has begun in earnest around my house.
So far, I have picked out or already purchased three Christmas gifts from stores in Owenton. I’m hoping to get out later this week and check out some of the shops outside of Owenton.
My wife, Kellee, is nearly impossible to shop for and I’m hoping to find something unique at one of the antique or consignment stores in the area for her.
Before running off to Lexington, Florence or anyplace outside of Owen County this Christmas season, make sure you consider keeping your cash right here in the community. You’ll not only be helping the local economy, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by making sure these businesses stay in operation.
Make a pledge to yourself to pick up at least a few gifts from Owen County businesses.
You’ll be happy you did.