Racing, concerts among events to be held at $100M complex

BATON ROUGE, La. -- A new $100 million speedway in Tangipahoa Parish will be built to standards for NASCAR and Indy racing, and the complex could be used for concerts, boat racing and as a staging area for hurricane response, officials said Thursday.

The Louisiana International Speedway, financed by private investors, is scheduled to be ready for racing in the fall of 2008, said Michael Weber, the future track's vice president for marketing. Weber said trees are now being cleared at the site so construction can begin.

It's unclear whether the track would ever be home to a NASCAR race. Officials of the stock car circuit don't consider a speedway until after it's complete, Weber said.

The track will be south of Kentwood, just off Interstate 55, on 1,500 acres bought by the investors. Plans call for a one-mile oval, asphalt track and a half-mile drag racing track, with 30 luxury suites and seating for 42,000. Weber said a narrow quarter-mile stretch of water will make the track one of three in the country with nighttime speed boat drag racing.

Construction of the track and the racing complex will generate 600 to 800 temporary jobs, and operations of the speedway will create between 50 and 100 new jobs, said Donald Pierson, an assistant secretary in the state economic development agency. Pierson said the track should also produce a large new influx of tourists, from in and out of Louisiana.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco and parish officials announced details at a news conference at the Governor's Mansion. Blanco noted that the facility could be used as a staging ground for hurricane response crews, because planners envision it will have its own medical center and electricity source.

"It will be a great addition to the sportsman's paradise we have here in Louisiana," Blanco said.