SBJ/February 16 - 22, 2004/Facilities

Tuneups at tracks surpass $60M

International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. each plan to invest more than $60 million in facility improvements for the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season, representatives for the two track owners said.

Officials from those two firms, operating a combined 19 venues, said they are not as concerned with competing against each other as they are with keeping up with the "ball-and-stick sports."

"We're trying to make Bristol look like a mainstream sports and entertainment facility," said Jeff Byrd, president of Bristol Motor Speedway, discussing the $10 million in upgrades at the Tennessee track.

A rendering shows the first turn at ISC’s Richmond track after 1,400 new seats are added.
The SMI property has proved to be one of the most popular NASCAR stops. The Ford City 500 in March and Sharpie 500 in August are sold out for the 146,000-seat facility, and 100,000 tickets have been sold for the two corresponding Busch Series events, he said.

Bristol is constructing a 36,000-square-foot, three-floor building, half of which is dedicated to fan interactive exhibits. The new retail store will be four times larger than the existing shop.

A new 125-foot video tower with four 540-square-foot screens means that fans in the grandstand are on equal footing with suite patrons in having access to Nextel Vision, Byrd said.

"We get our inspiration not from other tracks, but venues such as Reliant Stadium, Camden Yards, Turner Field, Jacobs Field, the Coliseum in Nashville and Bank of America Stadium," he said. "That's where we look for improvements, because race fans are much more sophisticated and they've been to all these places. They have heightened expectations."

Las Vegas Motor Speedway was expected this week to complete a two-year 15,000-seat expansion estimated to cost $5 million, said SMI President and COO H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler. Seating capacity is now 114,000.

Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte is implementing $1 million in lighting improvements and a new media center in the infield with a 150-seat conference room. There are also new public rest rooms and showers in the infield. Total construction is about $6 million.

ISC's primary project this year is adding 1,400 seats by the first turn at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia. Capacity will increase to 107,097, track spokesman Keith Green said. There are also 55 acres of new parking. Officials would not discuss the specific costs.

The company is spending an undisclosed amount of money to install lights at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and California Speedway in Fontana. Both tracks have night races this year. Wes Harris, director of investor relations, said ISC ultimately could spend $100 million this year as the company continues to explore potential land purchases.

SMI and ISC also continue to install "soft walls" as a driver safety feature at their tracks to conform with NASCAR regulations. "NASCAR is pushing all Nextel Cup facilities to get that technology in the next year or two," Harris said. For ISC, that project could reach $10 million, he said.

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