Thursday, July 31, 2003

Fans have speedier way to speedway

Expanded I-71 ramp complete; more to come

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SPARTA, Ky. - The 50,000 or so fans expected at the Kentucky Speedway for the Aug. 17 Belterra Casino Indy 300 will have an easier time getting there.

Some fans will also have a new place to stay overnight once they arrive.

An expansion of the Interstate 71 ramp at Ky. 35, the main road into the speedway, has finally been completed. A second lane on the interchange ramp, a project speedway management had hoped to see completed earlier in the race season, should ease the flow of traffic from the interstate to the track's main entrance.

"Getting those two lanes off I-71 was a critical step to improving access into the track," said Kentucky Speedway General Manager and Executive Vice President Mark Cassis.

Last week, a $4 million 78-room Ramada Limited & Suites hotel opened just across Ky. 35 from the speedway. It is the first major hotel to open near the $152 million motor speedway.

Two more major road projects are planned:

• Widening I-71 to three lanes north of the speedway.

• Completing a new road from Exit 55 on I-71, the interchange south of the speedway, down to Markland Dam, which serves as a bridge to southern Indiana and will provide quicker access to the Belterra Casino and Resort in Switzerland County, Ind.

Work on both projects will be completed over the next one to two years, Cassis said.

Cassis is hoping for a crowd of more than 50,000 on a weekend that also includes Cincinnati Reds home games, the Cincinnati Bengals preseason opener, the Western & Southern Financial Masters tennis tournament in Mason and a Fleetwood Mac concert at Riverbend.

In typical speedway fashion, the race is being heavily - and uniquely - promoted.

On Aug. 14 from noon to 10 p.m., Newport on the Levee will host the "Festival of Speed," where fans can meet drivers, view Indy race cars and try out interactive displays that will include a racing simulator.

"We're actually going to have (drivers) Sarah Fisher and Scott Sharp drive race cars across the (Taylor Southgate) bridge and into Great American Ball Park and deliver the baseball before the Reds play," Cassis said.


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