JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
NIAGARA FALLS – Fort Erie politicians aren’t the only ones excited about the proposed $400-million Canadian Motor Speedway and news last week the project has passed another major hurdle.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati says he’s a big fan and supporter of the plan, which he believes is a win for his city as much as the city’s southern neighbour, Fort Erie, where the project will be built.
“This will be the biggest thing to happen since the casinos came to town,” Diodati said during Tuesday evening’s Niagara Falls city council meeting.
Afterward, he elaborated on his remarks, during an interview with Bullet News.
Diodati said he is well aware of the project and its potential impact on his city and the rest of the region.
However, he is happy to see some good news come Fort Erie’s way for a change.
“We feel a strong connection to Fort Erie,” the Niagara Falls mayor said.
“I’m happy for Fort Erie. They deserve something good, something big.”
Last week, Fort Erie and Canadian Motor Speedway officials received word from the Ontario Municipal Board that it has dismissed an appeal of an earlier ruling in favour of the speedway.
That decision will allow the developer – after many years of navigating the regulatory process – to move forward with a groundbreaking.
Last fall, the OMB ruled in favour of the speedway project, which has support from the Town of Fort Erie and Niagara Region.
The ruling was then challenged by the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS), one of the parties to the original OMB appeal.
A one-day appeal hearing was heard in late March.
The cost to build the track is estimated at $150 million.
The proposal includes recreational, commercial, industrial and educational uses that have the potential to expand the development investment to $400 million, proponents say.
Plans for the speedway complex include:
- 1.0 mile paved motor speedway oval and spectator grandstand (65,000 seating capacity) with support facilities in the infield such as truck and RV parking, garages, first aid stations, fuel handling area, media centre, fan walk, maintenance and emergency command centre;
- 2.5 mile paved motor speedway road course with support facilities;
- a motocross/BMX /snowmobile/rental kart centre speedway course located within the road course area;
- 75,000 square feet ancillary commercial component supporting the Speedway;
- 185 acres for a parking and camping area along the southwest corner of Gilmore and Laur Road and along the lands south of Bowen Road, west of Laur Road;
- 31.1 acre “Innovation and Centre of Excellence”- post-secondary educational and professional facilities related to the research and development of automotive technology and manufacturing and assembly of prototype products associated with the Centre;
- 170 acres of natural features;
- 51.3 acres for storm-water management facilities.
The speedway project is seen by many in Fort Erie as a major economic development opportunity for a town hard hit by job losses and business closures in recent years.
Among a number of concerns voiced by critics, opponents of the project worry about the loss of agricultural land, environmental, traffic and noise pollution concerns.
Diodati said Tuesday the project is of such a magnitude, the whole region will benefit if it’s built.
And it’s not just about racing.
He said he has often in the past had conversations with major concert promoters who lament that there are few, if any, suitable large-scale outdoor concert venues in Niagara.
The proposed speedway may just fill that gap and bring even more tourism-related economic development opportunities to south Niagara.
“We need a place in Niagara where we can have big shows,” he said. “This could be our Downsview Park.”
Diodati went on to commend Mayor Doug Martin, the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corporation and the developer for staying the course despite the obstacles encountered along the way.
“Hats off to them,” Diodati said. “They never gave up.”
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