The proposed Atlanta Motorsports Park received glowing endorsements from several big names in the speed industry Saturday morning.
Championship motorcycle racer Nate Kern and Speed Channel commentator Bob Varsha spoke to a group of about 100 potential park members at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville.
Both said the proposed sports car country club is ideal for all driver levels and would offer opportunities to improve driving skills.
“There’s a lot of potential to gain speed, regardless of what you drive,” said Kern, who rides for BMW. “It’s just a great place to learn to enjoy your car.
“There are several opportunities for training. You build it friendly for bikes, it makes it 10 times better for cars.”
Following the private reception, the invite-only crowd toured the site on all-terrain vehicles.
Slated to open in summer 2009 on more than 200 acres off Duck Thurmond Road in rural Dawson County, the project is billed as a playground for motorsports enthusiasts.
Plans call for a Le Mans-style driving course nearly 3 miles long, with two straightaways nearly 2,000 feet in length.
The resort would include residential and retail components, as well as a members-only clubhouse, swimming pools, tennis courts, hiking trails and lodging amenities.
The site, currently owned by Ernie Elliott, was annexed into Dawsonville in fall 2007.
Developer Jeremy Porter plans to ask the Dawsonville City Council next month to rezone the site from agricultural to commercial.
Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County, has estimated the project could have a $4 million tax boost to the county over the next eight to 10 years.
Varsha, who also helps promote his son’s budding cart racing career, said he was impressed by Porter’s vision for the park.
“There are a number of these sorts of projects that have been on the drawing boards for years,” he said. “Some have happened, some will happen, some will not happen.
“What it takes is vision, great engineering, solid construction, community support and certainly a strong membership.”
Porter said he would like to have a membership base established before February, when he hopes to break ground.
“We’re about a fourth of the way there in our diamond memberships,” Porter said Saturday.
He added that Atlanta Braves slugger Chipper Jones became a member earlier this month at a charity event.
Varsha said the concept is a win-win not only for those with a passion for speed, but also for the community.
“There are so many things that can be done to train young people to be better drivers, so that we can reduce the kind of carnage we see every weekend it seems on our highways,” he said.
“We can get kids involved not only in driving cars, but in working on them and opening up career paths for young people. It just seems to work on so many levels.”