SBJ/October 18-24, 2010/Facilities

Track offers deals for early birds

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Michigan International Speedway will offer the cheapest ticket prices to early buyers, and then gradually increase prices.
Many racetracks offer discount tickets in the weeks before a race, but Michigan International Speedway plans to take the opposite approach next year.

The racetrack will offer early ticket buyers the cheapest prices and increase prices gradually for later buyers. The tiered pricing approach is designed to encourage fans to renew or buy new tickets as early as possible. It is the second year Michigan International Speedway, which is owned by International Speedway Corp., has priced tickets that way.

Last year, the racetrack saw deposits increase 10 percent and renewals remain flat as a result of the strategy. While it didn’t lead to ticket sales increases, MIS President Roger Curtis said the combination of it with an average 30 percent ticket price reduction “stopped the bleeding” at the racetrack.

“Fans are appreciating the fact that we aren’t dumping tickets on the market,” Curtis added. “If we have 20,000 unsold seats, so be it. We’re going to try to be loyal to fans who buy early.”

MIS’s strategy mimics some of the variable pricing and advance season-ticket pricing approaches that pro sports teams have developed, so it’s hardly a new concept. However, it is rarely practiced in motorsports.

Under the speedway’s tiered pricing, it will offer general admission seating to its June 19 and Aug. 21 Sprint Cup Series races for $10 through Jan. 31. That price will increase to $25 in February and $30 in March.

Ticket sales have been a challenge for NASCAR races since the recession began. Ticket revenue at ISC is down 18.9 percent so far this year as the company cut prices on a third of its tickets.

To drive sales, racetrack operators have tested a variety of new offerings. Texas Motor Speedway, a track owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., introduced “backstretch busters,” a group of nearly 3,000 seats available for as low as $20 for its April race, and Chicagoland Speedway, an ISC track, began offering single-day tickets to events.

Michigan’s strategy has piqued the interest of parent company ISC, which is considering using it at other racetracks next year. ISC spokesman Lenny Santiago said at least one track will adopt the same strategy. He declined to name the track because ticket prices and plans for it are not complete.

“What we’ve seen in Michigan is that they’ve been able to sustain their crowds, and they’ve done that in a difficult market,” Santiago said. “It’s something we’re considering applying elsewhere.”
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