Smith counters incentives deal

Lowe's Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith, upset with parts of his $80-million incentives deal from Concord and Cabarrus County, countered this week with a plan that sharply differs from what the governments offered.

The billionaire wants his company to be compensated for road and other improvements in the area in three years, instead of up to 40 years, and receive interest if payments are not made in that time frame.

He cut a requirement to run the speedway and his new drag strip for at least 40 years, as well as hold at least three top-level NASCAR races a year at the speedway. He proposed operating the facilities for a number of years, but the total was not specified.

And he eliminated a requirement that he spend $200 million within three years on speedway improvements.

Smith's lawyers wanted to keep the details of his counterproposal confidential, but the county released the document at the Observer's request Thursday. City and county officials said they either had not seen the document or had not had time to analyze it.

Smith landed his incentives deal last fall, after threatening to move the speedway out of Concord because of a dispute with the city over his plans to build a drag strip nearby. In exchange for incentives, Smith said he would build the $60 million drag strip – which opens this month – and would make $200 million in speedway upgrades.

But Smith, 81, had expressed frustration that 40 years was too long to wait for the incentives.

The city and county's offer includes plans to take up to 40 years to reimburse Smith's company, Speedway Motorsports, for fronting the cost of $60 million in road and other improvements around the track.

That money would be reimbursed from grants that equal an 85 percent rebate on annual city and county taxes from Smith's new investments. Such grants normally last three to five years, but could take up to 40 depending on how the property is valued from year to year.

Smith also proposed changes in how infrastructure would be upgraded around the track.

Once Smith and the governments agree on a proposal, the city and county would hold public hearings on the plan before voting on it.

Other parts of the deal include having the city and county front the estimated $15 million for expediting the state's extension of the George W. Liles Parkway, and eventually getting reimbursed from the state.

And the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau will spend $5 million over the next decade, or $500,000 a year, to market Smith's facilities. Smith proposed that the local governments guarantee that the agency spend $500,000 each year.