SBJ/March 5 - 11, 2007/This Weeks News

Track ready to light up Neon Garage

By the time the Britney Spears impersonator — hair and undergarments optional — takes the stage at the Neon Garage on Friday morning, Chris Powell likely will be taking a deep sigh of relief.

By The Numbers: Las Vegas Motor Speedway Neon Garage
• 11,752 square feet of glass
• 4,000 tons of steel
• 500 miles of rebar
• 40 miles of fiber-optic wires for TV, Nextel Vision and media center
• 2 levels
• 4 buildings
• 52,000 square feet of footprint for Neon Garage

For the past year, Powell, the general manager at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has sweated the details on everything from the Neon Garage’s construction, a project that cost close to eight figures, to Richard Petty’s lifelike wax figure, which will watch over the Neon Garage this weekend before finding a permanent home at Madame Tussauds.

It’s all part of a $30 million face-lift to the track, which hasn’t even hit puberty. Opened in 1996, LVMS will show off its new look this weekend with NASCAR Busch and Nextel Cup series events.

“We’re in the entertainment capital of the world and we want the speedway to be the entertainment capital for NASCAR fans,” said Marcus Smith, executive vice president of national sales and marketing for Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns LVMS.

At the center of it all, literally and figuratively, is the Neon Garage, with a footprint of 52,000 square feet in the speedway’s infield. Despite all of the Vegas-style glitz and glitter that will adorn the Neon Garage this weekend, the purpose was much more down home: bring the fans closer to the race teams. And to do it for a premium.

Fans will be required to buy a credential that is separate from their ticket to the race. A Neon Garage three-day pass sells for $199, while a one-day pass costs $99. Previous speedway customers were offered a three-day pass at a discounted rate of $149.

Vegas’ Neon Garage (in renderings
above) will give fans a look down on
crews and cars.

Speedway officials said they expected more than 10,000 tickets to be sold to the Neon Garage, which would generate an estimated $1.5 million in new revenue from ticket sales. And that’s before considerable bar and concessions revenue is calculated.

“We anticipate a fairly hasty payback,” Powell said.

After taking a look at Daytona International Speedway’s Nextel FanZone, which offers fans a side view into the garage, LVMS tried to take fan access a step further. A glass floor/ceiling is all that will separate the fans, who will have access to the top of the Neon Garage’s deck, from the crews working below in the garage stalls.

“We wanted to offer the fans a closer proximity to the teams than you can get at any other speedway,” Powell said. “We believe it will change the way people see the sport and likely the way speedways do business because of the tremendous access we’re granting the fans.”

Many of the acts on the centrally located and covered stage will be Vegas-style impersonators, in addition to the renowned Blue Man Group. The area opens at 9 a.m. and closes each day at 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Powell said the four sides of the complex will create of a sound buffer so that fans might hear the cars, but the engines’ roar won’t drown out the music and other entertainment from the stage.

The Neon Garage, designed by AI Design, Charlotte, will open this weekend without a presenting sponsor, but Powell hopes that will change once fans and prospective partners experience the area.

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