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Reaction to a new tax on campsites near Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway ranges from outrage to ambivalence, according to a report in the Bristol Herald Courier.
In June, Bristol officials extended the city’s 5% tax on hotel and motel room rentals to cover campsite rentals during race weeks.
They did so amid protests from speedway officials and some campground operators.
This weekend marks the first major application of the new tax when about 90,000 people will camp near the speedway for the Sharpie 500.
“They’re gonna tax us right out of coming back to Bristol,” said race fan Doug Godby of Indianapolis, adding that other costs make coming to the races more expensive than ever.
“Everything else costs more,” Godby said. “We spent more on fuel coming down here than we spent coming and going last year.”
Godby, his wife and two friends have attended the track’s August race for the past 12 years but skip the spring race.
He predicted many fans would continue to attend Bristol races but would stop camping. Instead, they’ll drive to the race and then make a tiring drive home afterward.
Race fan Glen Grabski of Pover, Wis., offered an opposing viewpoint.
“That’s just a drop in the bucket,” Grabski said. “If 5% is going to stop somebody from coming, they’re not race fans.”
It costs about the same to attend races in Bristol as in other cities, but Grabski and his wife enjoy Bristol because of the activities surrounding the races, he said.
Six other NASCAR Nextel Cup markets impose lodging taxes on fans who stay in campgrounds. Local governments in Daytona Beach and Homestead, Fla., Las Vegas, Richmond, Va., Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Sonoma, Calif., impose their motel-hotel rates on campers.
The tax rates range from 13% in Richmond to 2% at Watkins Glen, where officials plan to raise the rate to 4% next year.
Bristol Motor Speedway-area campsites range in price from $100 to $500 a week, so each spot would generate $5 to $25. City officials expect to collect about $280,000 this year.
Revenues will help pay overtime and personnel costs of police and other city employees who manage traffic and keep order among the more than 160,000 race fans who come here twice a year for the races.
Campground owner George Rogers has passed the new fee along to his customers already. Others have decided to wait.
“It amounted to over $2,000 for us, and a lot of ours are already paid in full,” he said. “We sent (prepaid campers) a letter explaining the tax and asking them to send the extra $15.”
Bob Harr, who owns Farmer Bob Campground off the Bristol beltway, said he won’t collect the tax this year because most of his customers have pre-paid.
“It’s not fair to the others, so we’ve just got to eat it,” he said.
Harr charges $120 per campsite for the weekend, so if he rents 2,000 sites, the tax bill would amount to $12,000.
“I think if they’re going to charge it, the money should go to promote tourism or something positive, not to pay for something they’re already doing,” Harr said.