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Tribal leaders say racing proposal still alive

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BEND, Ore. (AP) — Tribal officials say they haven't given up on the idea of an auto racing complex on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Central Oregon.

The question has been subject to three votes by members of the Confederated Tribes, the most recent on July 2.

But turnout has been too low: A third of eligible tribal members must vote for a referendum to win approval, and they haven't met that quorum all three times.

If the Tribal Council finds enough support, the proposal could go back to the voters in a few months, the Bulletin newspaper reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1tT9V88 ).

The plans call for 900 acres of reservation property to be converted into a motor sports complex, with an oval racetrack, drag strip and grandstands, along with an RV park, lodging and retail shops.

It would be a joint venture of the tribe and Lions Head Development, an Oregon company working with executives who have ties to national racing groups.

The proposal is part of an effort by the tribe's business arm, Warm Springs Ventures, to diversify the reservation's economy.

In the July 2 referendum, turnout was 200 votes short of meeting the one-third requirement. Earlier votes were closer to the threshold.

A slight majority of those who voted in July disapproved of the venture. The earlier votes had small majorities for approval.

"I think there was a little referendum fatigue," said Jeff Anspach, chief financial officer of Warm Springs Ventures. "We haven't had a material change in the information presented from the first two referendums."

One proponent, Olney "J.P." Patt Jr., is a former chairman of the tribes and a current member of the tribal racing committee.

Lions Head has made a number of commitments, including environmental protections, trade and training programs to ensure tribal employment. But, Patt said, unanswered questions remain among tribal members.

"A lot of people feel it wasn't fleshed out enough," he said.

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

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