NASCAR's Hall of Fame was supposed to be a great temple to the sport, filled with throngs of devoted fans during each hour it was open. Except the fans never showed up, and the great temple has been hemorrhaging cash. Which really wouldn't be a big deal, except now the City of Charlotte, North Carolina is paying for it.
When the HOF was originally built, it was financed with the help of $137,000,000 in city bank loans. Those were supposed to be easy to pay back, just from the massive scale of crowds that would surely be attending and be paying $20 each just for the privilege. Everyone likes NASCAR in Charlotte, so the thinking went, so everyone else will want to come to Charlotte to bathe in the warm embrace of NASCAR.
But when it opened in 2010, the crowds never arrived, as Bloomberg reports:
Officials originally predicted the museum would draw 800,000 people its first year and 400,000 annually thereafter, said Laura White, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. The average has been about 170,000, she said.
"It was going to be a huge economic-development project that would pay for itself," said Don Reid, a former City Council member who runs a marketing firm. "It sounded good because Nascar is a big financial industry, but it's a colossal failure that has harmed the taxpayers."
Others who disagree with the "colossal failure" judgment have made vague assurances that it's brought in business to the local convention center, though they're not exactly forthcoming with numbers.
In addition to ticket sales, other revenue-generating ideas involved sponsorship sales and sales of commemorative bricks. But those things haven't materialized either. So now, the City of Charlotte is still saddled with all of the debt, and with few ways to repay it.
The solution, then, has been to restructure the debt, with a few banks forgiving almost $18,000,000 in interest and principle, in exchange for $5,000,000 up front in the form of lodging tax revenue.
That should stabilize the financial situation in the meantime, NASCAR officials are saying, and should allow the HOF to get back on its feet while bigger crowds and increased revenues definitely, definitely arrive this time. For sure. 100%.
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