We start out our Legendtorial today with a sincere "Thank you" to all the folks who turned out this past Saturday to tour the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Our little RacersReunion Group had 18 folks come out on a very cold Saturday with Mr. and Mrs. Cowan from Ontario, Canada joining us and complaining about the "heat". Just kidding about the complaining, but it was great to have them as a part of our group.
Every single person that joins us for these tours is important but I want to call special attention to a couple of folks who added greatly to our visit. First up is Rex White. Rex will be officially inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 30th and he joined us for the tour, just as he stated he would when he was on this show back in December. We all had a great time with him and Rex remains one of the most humble and sincere men you will ever encounter. The Hall of Fame is a well deserved honor for a wonderful man.
Also, as with all our previous trips, Frances Flock traveled by herself to join us. She always adds sunshine to the event, even on the coldest and cloudiest days. Frances has the bubbly personality that inspires even the most reticent person to open up and join in conversations. She is a huge blessing for our group on every trip. She told me, as she left Saturday, that she will always come with us if I let her know when we are going. You can bet I will do that!!
And last, but certainly not least on the list of thank you notes is Buz McKim. Buz is the NASCAR Historian and Curator for the Hall of Fame. Buz has the kind of personality that exudes a love for the sport, most specifically the history of the sport. This is the second time that he has come in on a Saturday to give our group a guided tour and having him do so is an extra benefit many do not have an opportunity to enjoy. RacersReunion is blessed to have Buz as a friend and associate.
We had folks in our group from the teenagers to those in the eighties. As we sat down to enjoy lunch together I looked around the tables and saw a huge difference in ages but I saw a common bond that brings all of us together here on Tuesday night and to the site day in and day out. I do need to point out that we sorely missed Dave Fulton who continues to recover from his health issues and we really hope he will be up for the next trip. We also missed a regular attendee, Leon Phillips, as he had to work Saturday. These two gentlemen bring much to the trips. And, yes, we are already planning the next trip! Go on and mark your calendars that RacersReunion will return to the Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 9, 2015. This will be our fifth adventure.
As many of you remember, I was one of the Hall of Fame's most vocal critics for many reasons until Randy Myers talked me into a bet I couldn't back out of a couple of years ago and practically forced me to show up for a visit. Fearing Randy's backlash if I didn't agree with him, I enlisted several RR members to go to the Hall with me that day. As it turned out, and as is evidenced by my now strong support of the Hall of Fame, I didn't have to worry about Randy. It seems, in fact, unless I am very mistaken, that Randy Myers and I have become pretty good friends. He was unable to join us for the entire tour due to business commitments Saturday, but he did meet us for lunch. You know, that sort of touches a special part of my heart that he makes the effort to show his continued support for the Hall of Fame and for RacersReunion as we make these trips. Thank you, Randy, for your support.
Much of this "preamble", I guess, is a lead in to an issue I want to address tonight in a serious tone, and that issue is the reason I entitled this Legendtorial referencing the "Blame Game". We all know there are many out there, maybe even some of you listening tonight, that will always have issues with the NASCAR Hall of Fame for whatever personal reason you may feel. There are those (which once included me) who don't like the way the selection process is handled. In certain respects, I still have issues with that topic, but as Randy said in a post on another social network site this week, we, as NASCAR fans, at least have a Hall of Fame in which to enshrine our heroes. While we may think there are others more entitled that some already in, I don't think anyone can argue the fact that adding Rex White, this year, or Wendell Scott, is a bad thing. How about Fireball Roberts? Would you deny him? I hope not. Surely I don't agree that the timing was right for certain inductees, and most of you can review the list and pick out those about whom I make this statement. But, nevertheless, we have a Hall of Fame in which to honor those deemed by a selection committee to be eligible. It's not perfect, but what is? For that matter, who is perfect? Well, admittedly, there are those out there who repeatedly condemn something they have not even experienced so I have no patience with those individuals. Perhaps it would be to their benefit to "get a life".
Now we are to the point of the Legendtorial where we talk about the huge publicity of the past week or so, making front page headlines in "The Charlotte Observer", that Bank of America and Wells Fargo are being asked to forgive some 21 million dollars in loans to the Hall of Fame. Many pundits, and others with public forums, have turned that into a defamation of NASCAR and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This simply is not true! I was driving across town last Thursday when the D.J. I listen to every afternoon and for whom I have a great deal of respect, made the on-air statement that it was NASCAR asking the banks to forgive the loans. He repeatedly mentioned NASCAR. I came within seconds of pulling over and calling him to correct his misconception but he began a radio contest at that time for tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters who were in town for the weekend and I didn't want to get messed up in that. Looking back, I wish I had called.
Race fans, the fact here is, it is NOT NASCAR asking for loan forgiveness. It IS NASCAR, however, that has agreed to forgive in excess of three million dollars owed to NASCAR by the City of Charlotte for royalties owed for sale of merchandise in the Hall of Fame. That is correct, The City of Charlotte operates that NASCAR Hall of Fame. I don't want to even begin to get into the agreements made between The City of Charlotte's politicians and the two lending banks when all this started, but even in the interest of fairness to the City of Charlotte, it had intended to sell parcels of land on I-277 near the Hall of Fame which were derailed when the economy tanked. From what I've read recently, some of that land has been sold and things are looking brighter in that regard.
As for the oft-repeated mantra that NASCAR is operating this Hall out of the pocketbooks for the Charlotte taxpayers, the taxes involved consists of a 2% accommodations and meal tax in Charlotte. Broadly speaking, this means a majority of the taxes come from visitors to Charlotte and not necessarily the citizens of The City of Charlotte.
Further, with the Hall of Fame and the Convention Center being part and parcel of the same facility, I learned that the facility is directly responsible for in excess of 15 million dollars annually. Please understand this is not based on critical mass research on my part, but from conversations with people well placed in positions to know that about which they speak. I can't help but think of all the folks who were at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony last January and the money put into the Charlotte economy from that event.
I also have noticed comments made that say Charlotte was the wrong place to build the Hall. Some have mentioned Atlanta, some Daytona, and some Talladega. Frankly, I fully support the Charlotte location because just up the road in Mooresville is where the majority of the teams are located. The All-Star Race in run at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Besides, selfishly, I can drive to the Hall of Fame in 90 minutes from my driveway (and that's by the speed limit). Makes it convenient for me.
Then there is the argument always ongoing about how expensive it is. If you are a senior citizen, which means 60 years of age or above, it's like $17.95, plus applicable taxes for entry. Under 60 I believe its $21.95 plus applicable tax. As I discovered in my last adventure to the movie theater with my youngest grandson, for the two of us to see the movie (matinée prices), get the big tub of popcorn and two drinks and his package of favorite candy came to almost $40.00. While there Saturday, I checked out souvenir prices on things like t-shirts, sweat shirts, caps and such, and found those prices far, far, below the in store prices of NFL, MLB or NBA merchandise of the same type.
I must admit I do have a problem with the parking prices. Randy tells me there is a parking garage "across the street" where I can park for $5.00 for the day. Problem is, Randy has never pointed out to me which one of those parking garages is so generous to visitors. Guess next trip I'll have to hog-tie him and find out. The convenient part of the expensive parking garage is that it is connected to the Hall of Fame and you can pretty much stay out of any inclement weather entirely by parking there.
So, the bottom line here, if indeed there is one, is that I am a full-fledged 100% supporter of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I thank Randy Myers for showing me the error of my thinking. I reiterate my thanks to all those who joined us Saturday. Start counting the days until our May trip, and be on the lookout for an announcement coming from The Lair about something else of interest not involving the Hall of Fame.