SBD/October 15, 2013/Events and Attractions

Bristol Motor Speedway Releases Initial Plans For Staging '16 College Football Game

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Temporary seats will likely be installed in the end zones at Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway officials said that approximately 400 workers will "begin the intricate task" of preparing the facility for a Virginia Tech-Tennessee college football game "immediately following" the August '16 NASCAR race weekend, according to Allen Gregory of the BRISTOL HERALD COURIER. Approximately 8,500 tons of rock "will be used to build the base of the field, with the turf and field building process expected be completed in eight days." The Battle of Bristol is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2016. One of the "main sticking points in converting the speedway into a football field involves removing a video board that looms above the stadium." BMS President & COO Marcus Smith said, "We’re going to have to take the tower up, store it and then bring it back for the following race in the spring. It’s a very difficult process. Everything that this project entails is going to be huge." Speedway officials said that temporary seats "will likely be installed in the end zones." BMS GM Jerry Caldwell said, "I think you’ll see that the sight lines are going to be very similar to what you would see in a college football program." Smith said that the "biggest hurdle in making the dream a reality was timing," and that another game beyond '16 "is a possibility." BMS "offers seating for 160,000," including suites. If fans "turn out as expected, the Battle at Bristol would smash the all-time NCAA record for highest single-game attendance." The modern-day attendance record of 115,109 fans "was set last month as Michigan hosted Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, but Notre Dame attracted crowds in the 120,000 range" at Soldier Field in the 1920s (BRISTOL HERALD COURIER, 10/15). Caldwell said that engineers and contractors have "been working at the track the past six to seven months, determining how to stage a football game" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 10/15).

THE BIGGER THE BETTER: In Virginia, Andy Bitter notes a contract between the schools shows both VT and UT could earn up to $4.3M "from ticket sales and bonuses." Each school will "receive 40,000 tickets to sell to fans." Each school will earn $4M if it "sells that full allotment," or they could bring in $3.5M for 25,000 tickets, or $3.75M for 32,500. There is an "escalating bonus based on attendance that could be" as high as an additional $300,000 per school "if the game sells out the grandstand." The contract states that 5,000 tickets of the team’s allotment "must not cost more than $40" (ROANOKE TIMES, 10/15). SPORTS ON EARTH's Matt Crossman wrote, "However big of a deal you think Tennessee playing against Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway will be, however much hype and craziness you think is possible, quadruple it." Crossman: "Will any of this do anything to, you know, provide a good football game? Who cares?" The quality of the game "is beside the point." This is about the "pomp and pageantry of creating a must-go event, and the only sport that does that better than NASCAR is college football" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 10/11).

ON THE WAITING LIST? In Las Vegas, Alan Snel writes, "Don't expect any gridiron matches at the Las Vegas car track any time soon." Las Vegas Motor Speedway has a capacity of 123,000 and officials "have discussed the idea of staging a college football game." But LVMS VP/PR Jeff Motley said, "It just hasn't materialized." While BMS is a half-mile track with "seating all around the race course," LVMS is a mile-and-a-half track "with the majority of seats on one side of the track" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/15).
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