Tonight – Monday night – in Fort Erie is going to be a pivotal moment in the fight to gain approval to build a multi-million dollar oval speedway/road-course complex beside the Queen Elizabeth Way on the outskirts of the border city.
The Town Council will hold a special meeting at the Leisureplex Banquet Hall, on Municipal Centre Dr., where it will decide whether to support the Canadian Motor Speedway project.
If council votes yes, then the matter will go to the area’s regional government that will then vote yes or no on Wednesday.
The Leisureplex location was chosen because a large number of opponents of the project are expected to turn out. Led by the usual NIMBY crowd, which seems to exist in just about every municipality everywhere, these people automatically shout "no!" to anything that might see change take place, even if it’s positive change – which I happen to think is the case here.
To counter this opposition, supporters of the speedway are planning a pep rally and barbecue at the Quarter Mile Restaurant and Sports Bar on nearby Garrison Rd., starting at 3 p.m. From there, they plan to march to the banquet hall to show councillors that "there may be hundreds of opponents" to the speedway project, "but there are thousands of supporters."
Good luck to them and I hope it’s approved. Whether the speedway ever actually gets built is another matter, but the approvals process comes first and there’s no way this project should be rejected.
Remember the hue and cry raised back in the 1960s by members of the Parkdale Ratepayers Association when the idea of an Indy car race through the streets of the Canadian National Exhibition was first floated? They raised enough of a fuss that it never happened.
We found out years later that the then-owners of Mosport Park Ltd. were in large part responsible for the outright lies and half-truths that contributed to the rejection of that initial proposal.
To illustrate how wrong the opposition to that race turned out be, the annual Molson Indy (now Honda Indy) that finally got the green light in 1986, has been nothing but positive for the city of Toronto ever since. Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton have also reaped the benefits of car racing in their cities as inns, motels and hotels, restaurants and bars have all thrived. (Maybe not the taxpaying citizens of Edmonton because of the outrageous cost-overruns there associated with a street race, which the Fort Erie proposal is not, but the city's hospitality industry certainly benefited).
In any event, you have to wonder where the opposition to the Fort Erie proposal is coming from? I mean, it’s not as if there’s a lot in Fort Erie to attract tourists – other than the horse-racing track. And, as mentioned, there are always the NIMBY types, but they’re a minority.
So what's the problem? Why is there even opposition to this proposal? Who’s behind it? Where is it coming from? Is there something a little deja-vu-ish going on here?
Let’s hope that the members of Fort Erie Town Council ask some tough questions tonight of the people opposing this speedway because it will be tragic to find out after the fact that the opposition was engineered and not real.
Quote of the weekend (if not the year):
Juan Pablo Montoya congratulating Jimmie Johnson on his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup championship at the NASCAR Awards Gala in Las Vegas at the weekend:
"Jimmie, you keep kicking our butts every week," said the ex-F1 pilot who finished eighth in NASCAR points this season. "It’s great to see you here – but it really sucks, to be honest."
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog item about a young racing driver from northwestern Ontario who made a great impresson on, first, Carl Edwards and, second, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and who's now working with Earnhardt’s commercial team on a sponsorship package that could see him racing for Dale Jr.’s team in the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series.
(If you missed seeing the item on Steve Arpin of Fort Frances, Ont., then click here.)
The good news today is that the other night in Covington, Ky., at the annual ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet, Arpin was honoured for not only his seventh-place finish in 2009 points but also for his popularity. He received the National Speed Sport News ARCA Nation Most Popular Driver Award.
This can only help Steve in his quest for financial backing to continue his quest to land a ride in the Sprint Cup Series, which is his ultimate goal. Dale Jr., of course, is no stranger to "most popular" awards, so Arpin’s honour will undoubtedly go down well with The Boss.