City Puts Dixon Downs Wish List On Table

City officials put their demands on the table Jan. 24 for Dixon Downs, Magna Entertainment's proposed state-of-the-art racetrack and training facility near Sacramento, Calif.

At its regular meeting, the Dixon City Council added about a dozen requests to a wish list put together by city manager Warren Salmons and staff. It was the first public disclosure of what might be included in a final development agreement between the city and MEC.

"It's a working list," Salmons said. "This list of issues are all items that need to be addressed. No item is more important than another."

With input from council members and the public, the City of Dixon came up with more than 40 things it would like to see Magna do in order to allow the company to proceed with the project. The items range from major renovation of a freeway interchange (with a $20 million price tag) to installing basic utilities (another estimated $16.5 million).

"It's a contract and contracts have at least two parties," Salmons noted. "The agreement I hope will contain language about various infrastructure such as water, traffic, and drainage and identifies who pays for what."

After first floating the idea of a racetrack in Dixon six years ago, Magna purchased about 260 acres for $6.3 million in 2001 adjacent to Interstate 80 about 20 miles west of Sacramento and has been working on the entitlement process ever since. So far, Magna has spent almost as much on that approval process – $5 million – as it did for the property, according to company officials. The entire project, including a 1.25-million square-foot upscale commercial complex, would cost more than $300 million.

"At least we're engaged in negotiations – that's the good news," said Scott Rose, a local Magna representative. "This (list) is mostly stuff we'd expect."

In recent months, the city of 17,000 residents has negotiated other development agreements, noted former mayor Don Erickson, now a MEC consultant for Dixon Downs. "But those were mostly housing agreements," he said. "To pay for those demands, home developers can add the cost to their houses. But this is very different. We're not selling a product like that. It's a long-term relationship.

"This list is formidable," Erickson added, "but there's only so much milk in this cow."

Public review of the project's draft environmental impact report closed Nov. 30 and hearings on the final report are expected to start soon. Salmons said the city's planning commission could hold its first hearing on the final EIR in "mid-to-late February."

That would please Magna officials, who have waited patiently for a decision on Dixon Downs. "Magna is very anxious to start public hearings at least in the first quarter," Rose said. "If we could get it done in March, that would be great."

Meanwhile, Salmons and his staff will meet with MEC representatives to hammer out the development agreement so that the council can consider it along with the final EIR.

If approved, Dixon Downs would take 18 to 24 months to build and could be open by 2008.