on economic promises, merchants say
(July 2001) Gallatin Co., Ky One
year after the first engines started and months after
the first blackjack buffs arrived, the counties surrounding
the Kentucky Speedway and the Belterra Casino Resort are
reaping the benefits of their presence. Once quiet communities
are now being developed with golf courses, convenient
stores, restaurants and more. Many business owners and
city officials report traffic has increased. They say
the best is yet to come.
This area is ripe for development.
When you have that, something is bound to happen,
said Ed Foley, who owns Walnut Ridge Golf Course in Warsaw,
Ky., and currently serves as president of the Gallatin
County Chamber of Commerce.
Gallatins chamber is currently in the process of
forming a tourism commission in a effort to promote growth
of the tourist industry in the towns of Warsaw and Sparta.
They pin their hopes on the new Kentucky Speedway, which
this year has expanded from three to four big racing weekends.
Business has been better than anything, said
County Judge-Executive George Zubaty. Business people
say its like having five or six Fourth of Julys
a year for them.
Since the tracks opening last year, Gallatin County
has quickly become one of the fastest-growing counties
in the state. Compared to $2.9 million in tourism spending
the year before, 2000 brought on a record-breaking increase
to $23.4 million. Tourist destinations such as hotels
and restaurants report that it is not just during race
weekends that such impact is felt.
My initial thought was that we would only be busy
10 days a year, said Bonnie Wheeler, who manages
three Carrollton motels. But it just isnt
race dates. Were busy when racing schools come and
vendors come to test equipment on the track. It has turned
out to be a great surprise, much more than I anticipated.
Wheeler added the hotel has been taking room reservations
six months in advance of race weekends.
Bill Frederick, owner of the Carrollton Inn and Carrollton
Landing, has experienced positive impacts in his business,
not only with the Kentucky Speedway but also Belterra
Casino. He has seen reverse impacts as well.
We had an impact from Belterra before they even
opened the doors, he said referring to the construction
crews who stayed at his hotel. Also, whenever Belterras
308 hotel rooms are full, Belterra officials send customers
Frederick also serves on Carroll Countys tourism
board and has noticed the overall impact to the community.
One of the reasons we have been able to do so much
is weve seen extra revenues generated because of
sales tax and bed tax.
He mentioned a new Best Western going up in Carrollton
and the new convention center that has generated traffic
at Gen. Butler State Resort Park.
The progress has gone beyond the realms of tourism, though.
The overall development in both Carroll and Gallatin counties
is in the midst of a Renaissance.
Carroll County Judge-Executive Gene McMurry said that
discussion about a regional airport has been taking place
since 1969, and now those words have been put into action.
The counties of Carroll, Gallatin and nearby Owen have
applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for a $350,000
federal grant to conduct a feasibility study. Plans are
to place the airport on the 297 acres next to the Kentucky
The airport initiative was driven by the Kentucky
Speedway, but weve been talking about this for a
long time, said McMurry. He added that for quite
some time the Carroll County branch of the Dow Corning
Industry wanted an airport for their corporate planes.
Speedway officials also need a small airport to fly in
drivers on race weekends. McMurry anticipated that if
all is successful with the feasibility study, the airport
could be completed in the near future.
Its on a fairly fast track, he said.
Were probably looking at one to two years.
Both McMurry and Zubaty spoke of an upcoming meeting with
an Aeronautical Transportation Department representative
in early July regarding the feasibility study.
This would be a regional type airport with small
planes, said Zubaty. I dont see it becoming
a commuter airport, at least not in the original start.
It would be in the 5,000-foot range. Our main thing, though,
is this is going to have to be self-sufficient because
to justify the people paying for it (through taxes), they
would really have to use it.
Zubaty added that an airport, combined with the ongoing
construction of a new four-lane highway connecting I-71
to Markland Dam bridge to Indiana, will likely attract
new industries to the area.
I look for the real growth to happen on the I-71
interchange, he said. It is a natural progression.
Weve got everything, but were new at this.
When these things are out, we need to promote them. The
track is in its crawling stages, but there is a possibility
for a Winston Cup. If that happened, it would be more
than anything we could think about.