WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) — Business owners and local officials predicted the decision to cancel the NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International later this month will be a major economic loss for the Finger Lakes region of New York.
NASCAR and Watkins Glen International have cited coronavirus-related health regulations and logistics issues for the decision to move the event to the Daytona International Speedway road course in Florida. It was scheduled to take place Aug. 13-16.
Schuyler County Administrator Timothy O'Hearn told the Poughkeepsie Journal the NASCAR weekend generates about $50 million in revenue for the region. It's the biggest event at the speedway and typically attracts up to 100,000 people.
“The loss of NASCAR plus the loss of state aid plus a drop in tourism, it’s been a perfect storm for us,” O'Hearn said. “It’s impossible to replace the loss of NASCAR. It could result in 20% of our revenue, as much as $2 million, in direct sales tax loss. We’re most dependent on tourism and its impact on our economy.”
Kamala Keeley, president of the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce, said the weekend has been important to the hospitality industry, local restaurants, retailers, service industries and the Elmira Corning Regional Airport.
"Watkins Glen is one of the most popular locations for NASCAR and the races are a sellout event, generating significant sales tax and room tax,” Keeley said.
“Although we understand moving the race to Daytona this year was a necessary decision given the current circumstances, it’s no doubt our entire region will be missing that annual boost to local economies," she said.
The speedway announced Saturday that a sports car race that had been rescheduled for September will now be moved to Georgia “as a result of the ongoing pandemic and its impact on the state of New York.”