I guess some of you havent heard that the I500 maybe no longer after this year. hear are some articles from the soo news paper.
Developer plans water park, hotel, mall on I-500 Race property
By SCOTT BRAND
SAULT STE. MARIE - With visions of geodesic domes, a hotel, new mall and a water park dancing in their heads, the Sault Ste. Marie City Commission unanimously agreed - in concept - to sell the I-500 property for development.
The news had the town buzzing early this morning and, while the informal poll would certainly be small in scale, there seemed to be widespread support for the commission's decision.
Developer Philip Garforth, President of Legacy Quest Developments, Inc. out of Ontario, made a lengthy presentation on his plans for the property. The centerpiece of the project would see the construction of a biodome “showcasing man's interaction with the environment,” in the words of Garforth.
The large mall, Garforth added, “will become a tourist attraction on its own,” bringing people from outside the area to shop at certain chains such as The Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch. He predicted it will bring stores to our region that are not currently here.
“Tourist dollars are the best money you can get,” said Garforth saying the economic impact will be felt. “You're not just recycling money that is in your community.”
The complex will also include a 300-room hotel, various theaters for both movies and live shows, and an indoor water park with a modern look - providing more than just slides for visitors.
Garforth, who had initially proposed a similar development in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., said this location is a good one for bringing tourists to the area with approximately 40 million people living within an eight-hour drive.
Unlike many other developers who bring proposals in search of outside funding, Garforth indicated his financial backing is coming from the private sector.
“But if anyone wants to put any money in we will always take it,” he said bringing chuckles from the commission and audience alike.
While final figures are hard to come by, it appears as though the total investment in the property could be upwards of $70 million and bring hundreds of new jobs to Sault Ste. Marie.
A representative of Giffels Design-Build predicted the project could begin in June of this year with a completion date of mid-2009 if all goes according to plan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality stands to create the biggest hurdle for the project, depending on wetlands issues related to the property.
The commission agreed to sell the land to Garforth at a yet-to-be-determined price, instructing the administration to negotiate a purchase agreement with Garforth and company for review. The commission also expressed a strong interest in the inclusion of a “reverter clause' which would turn the parcel back over to the city should the development fail to get off the ground.
To see how this project may impact the future of the I-500 Race, see Page 1 on Wednesday.
Organizers determined to keep snowmobile race in EUP
By SCOTT BRAND
SAULT STE. MARIE - While the sale of the International 500 Snowmobile Track may threaten the future of the race, all of the involved parties seem eager to find a new home for the event.
“If we let it go one year, it's done,” predicted City Commissioner Jeff Stefanski underscoring the importance of maintaining continuity for the annual race.
The I-500 - set to run its 40th race on Feb. 2 - has utilized the city's property along the east side of I-75 since the inaugural race on the mile long oval. The setting has been ideal in many ways providing an out-of-the-way location with banked hills to facilitate spectator enjoyment and safety.
The city has held onto the large parcel throughout the race's history, but has always left the door ajar for potential development. The proposal from Philip Garforth - to construct a biodome, water park, theaters, and 300-room hotel - marks the first time the city officials have considered parting with the parcel.
I-500 Board Member Dave Thomas said, at this stage, “All our drive and focus is on getting this (the Feb. 2, 2008) race done.”
Officials from the I-500 say even if the land transaction falls through it will be good to develop an alternative plan for the future.
“We'd probably like to keep it inside the city limits if at all possible,” said Race Director Dennis Aho early this morning.
Ideally, the new track would have an overlooking hill saving the expense of constructing grandstands for the new site. Water accessibility, to ice the mile long track in preparation for the race, will also be an important consideration.
While the current track is a full mile and 500 laps, moving to a new home could have the effect of shortening the track to a half-mile or three-quarters mile.
“A shorter race can be finished in the daylight,” said Aho adding another advantage of the small track is it would be easier to maintain. “We could have bigger curves and shorter straight-aways.”
A new race site would also allow the I-500 crews to construct modern buildings with multiple uses, according to Aho. Many of the items at the existing track, such as the new lights and fencing, could also be trucked to the new site.
The city commission appears willing to invest money from the sale of the parcel into the purchase of a new site for the I-500. A number of suggestions have already been thrown out there including the Kinross Speed Park at the Chippewa County Fairgrounds, an unspecified site out in the Dafter area, some vacant land west of Seymour Street and even atop the old lime piles - depending on who is doing the speculation.
These proposed ideas, however, will only come into play should the city hammer out a purchase agreement with Legacy Quest Developments, Inc. on the current race property.
AND THEN THE DAY AFTER THAT.
Garforth orignally proposed project for Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
By SCOTT BRAND
SAULT STE. MARIE - The I-500 Track is not the first site selected by Philip Garforth of Legacy Quest Developments, Inc. with the Michigan location becoming an option only after a proposed development in Sault, Ontario began with a great deal of hope and hoopla - only to end in disappointment and threats of a lawsuit.
According to reports published by SooToday.com, Sault, Ont. officials entered into an agreement with Garforth in Nov. of 2005 to develop a major tourist attraction on a 15-acre parcel along the city's waterfront. Billed as “The Gateway Project,” the development was going to create hundreds of jobs and attract, by some estimates, 200,000 visitors a year to an indoor arboretum and specialized movie theater.
But, after two years of squabbling, finger-pointing and unfinished paperwork, the Sault Ste. Marie City Council voted to terminate the downtown development deal before ground was ever broken.
The relationship had grown contentious between Garforth and Sault, Ont. officials over a number of missed deadlines, but the damage apparently became irreparable after the developer alleged in a CBC radio interview that the city had failed to clean up contaminated soils, according to SooToday. com reports. The city, however, responded that a detailed site plan had never been submitted, delaying the clean-up effort.
With the Sault, Ont. deal off the table, Garforth evidently turned his attention to the south side of the St. Marys River and has received a warm welcome from city officials with his newest proposal.
Garforth appeared before the Sault Ste. Marie City Commission at Monday's meeting with a presentation on his vision for the property which currently houses the I-500 Race Track. Development - including biospheres, a shopping mall, 300-room hotel and water park - could be ready for visitors as early as 2009 if all goes according to plan.
In expressing his desire to purchase the property, Garforth indicated all of the funds would come through the private sector and was not requesting any financial assistance from the city for the envisioned tourist attraction.
The commission unanimously approved selling the land, but expressed a strong interest in including a “reverter clause” which would allow the city to reclaim the lands if development was not forthcoming.
While the commission gave its stamp of approval for negotiating the sale, the individual members provided a wide range of responses to the proposal. A cautious William Lynn instructed the city administration to do a thorough financial background check on the parties to make certain they had the money for this project, while Commissioner Jeff Stefanski - on the other end of the spectrum - expressed an interest in having the ability to purchase a seasonal pass once the project is completed.
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