SBJ/April 2-8, 2012/Facilities

Track adds infield hospitality options

Charlotte Motor Speedway has developed three new infield corporate hospitality spaces to put its best customers in the heart of the track.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., the track’s owner and operator, is building six mini-suites overlooking pit road; The Hub at Charlotte, a premium entertainment compound; and the Champions Pavilion, an all-inclusive ticket package.

Those three projects, part of $4 million in track upgrades this year, will be ready by May 19, the date of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, said Marcus Smith, the speedway’s vice president and general manager.

The infield projects are a result of longtime NASCAR sponsors asking SMI officials for something different from the traditional suites inside the facility and corporate tents outside
Six mini-suites (top) and the Champions Pavilion (bottom) are part of $4 million in upgrades at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Images by: AI DESIGN GROUP (2)
the track, Smith said. Before these new developments, there were few outdoor hospitality options and none in the infield.

“We were parking cars on the ‘18th green’ and our hospitality was in the parking lot,” said Dan Farrell, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s senior vice president of corporate sales.

Speedway Motorsports officials also wanted to develop midprice options to meet all corporate needs at the 135,000-seat track, having seen smaller groups entertaining clients at their eight NASCAR facilities across the country.
“It’s more intimate; 25 to 50 people seems to be a real sweet spot,” Farrell said.

The trend for designing smaller and more flexible premium spaces is evident across pro sports. In NASCAR, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Michigan International Speedway, both International Speedway Corp. tracks, have pit road suites and cabanas that can seat 15 to 60 people.

In Charlotte, Speedway Motorsports developed the pit road VIP box, a mini-suite with roof cover and seating for 15. The 600-square-foot suites sit 11 feet above the pit crew boxes.

Suite holders receive 15 tickets to eight NASCAR events every year. Food and beverage is a separate cost, and mini-suite patrons get exclusive access to the Winners Circle Lounge, the old Sunoco Gas building behind those units, for race day meetings as well as rest room breaks.

The pit road suites are tied to three-year deals at $45,000 annually. By comparison, the speedway’s 113 traditional suites along the front stretch and Turn 4 sell for $90,000 to $100,000 annually with three- to five-year commitments. Those 64-person indoor units are 75 percent sold for the year, Farrell said. The speedway also has open-air terrace boxes along the front stretch that sell for $36,000 a year for 32 people, including the cost of food and drink.

As of last week, SMI had sold mini-suites to JR Motorsports, UPS and 3M, and a fourth contract was pending, Farrell said.

JR Motorsports, the race team for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, was first to buy a mini-suite. The company will use it to give its newer sponsors a taste of NASCAR by putting them in the middle of the action, said Joe Mattes, vice president of licensing and marketing.

“We jumped on it right away because we have to provide more value,” he said. “Either customers are going to demand it or you can get in front of them and provide it. I sold two sponsorships where I rolled [the mini-suite] into the cost of it.”

The Hub opens up 2,500-square-foot spaces on a paved surface in the infield for groups of 15 to 20 people. Companies can bring their own rigs or have the speedway set up a motor coach with all the bells and whistles.

SMI has sold 15 of the 30 spaces available for $20,000 a year, which covers four passes for setup, two parking passes, pre-race pit access, 24-hour security and landscaping features. Race tickets and food and beverage are additional.

To make room for The Hub, race industry parking was relocated outside the back tunnel entrance near Gate 26, Farrell said.

Champions Pavilion, a new 12,000-square-foot building inside Turn 4, can accommodate 300 people. For the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27, the ticket price is $1,000 and includes three banquet-style meals, unlimited beverages including beer and wine, and a rooftop observation deck to watch the race.

Two months before the event, the pavilion was half sold. Telecom provider Windstream has bought 60 tickets, Farrell said.

The pavilion is similar to the Blackjack Club at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, another SMI property. In Charlotte, the pavilion is available year-round for group outings.

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