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Businesses "FOR" West Side Racetrack; Residents Divided

West side businesses are stepping up a campaign to build a stock car race track at the spot where baseball players once ran the bases. Local developers want to turn the empty Cooper Stadium into a race track. The businesses say it's just what the struggling west-side needs.

As you drive down Mound street or Broad street on the west side, the red signs are just about everywhere. They read: "FOR Cooper Park Complex". They are in storefronts and on front lawns. FOR stands for Friends of Racing.

City Electric Supply on West Mound Street across the street from Cooper Stadium has a "FOR" in the window. Tom Starrett manages the store. He said the track would generate money for the local economy. And he thinks it would even drive down crime. But Starrett does not live in the area. When asked if he would want a race track in his neighborhood he said,"I wouldn't be against it anywhere. And development everywhere is good. You know, especially down here. I mean, they seemed to have forgotten about this side of town."

The developer of the proposed race track, Arshot Investment Corporation printed the signs, neighbors are passing them out. Arshot wants to build an oval track for stock and sprint cars at the former home of the Columbus Clippers. The $30 million plan includes a trackside hotel, restaurant and conference center. Developers say the complex could be a venue for other events throughout the year like rodeos. The plan also calls for an automotive research and technology center and a car dealership. Proponents say 300 full- and part-time jobs would be created.

There is no sign in Evelyn Monahan's yard. She has lived on Forest Drive, about a mile down the road from Cooper Stadium, since the early 1980s. Monahan said she understands a race track could boost the area's economy, but she does not want it.

"It's a two-edged sword, you know," Monahan said.

But Monahan thinks the race cars would be too loud. And in her words she feels worse for her friends who live even closer than she does.

"They think, too, it's going to depreciate their property and that sort of thing," she said. Lori Spaulding lives around the corner from Monahan on Laurel Avenue. Spaulding said a race track would be helpful to the West Side.

"I just think it's a good opportunity for growth in the area. And we could definitely use it around here. Everybody's being hurt by the economy," Spaulding said.

Rosemont Avenue resident John Wood has similar sentiments.

"I have no problem with it. I think the area needs something. The noise I don't think is going to be that bad," Wood said.

Developers say a 35 foot wall around the track would stifle the noise, but experts hired by opponents say the wall would not eliminate all the noise.

Delmar Fletcher, Wood's neighbor, does not think a wall would help either.

"I think it'll be loud."

And he's worried about wildlife.

"They say there's a lot of animals and birds and stuff and it'll probably scare all of them out of there," Fletcher said.

And most residents in the area share similar thoughts of Monahan, Fletcher and Wood. Some like Diane Love would like to see the stadium razed and have a grocery store built in its place.

"I think they ought to put something in there more productive like a Meyer's store or something like that, that people's going to get use out of," Love said.

Columbus City Council members will have the final say whether to rezone the property to allow racing.