SBJ/September 10-16, 2012/Facilities

Daytona eyes sponsored entrances

Early plans for renovating Daytona International Speedway call for reducing the number of fan entrances from 17 to a maximum of six, and track officials have begun meeting with marketers to gauge corporate interest in buying title sponsorships for those entryways.

The track’s renovation plan calls for up to six “grand entrances” that could be branded areas.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Daytona President Joie Chitwood believes slashing the number of entrances at Daytona would improve fan traffic flow, make the facility easier to navigate for new fans and increase the amount of sponsorable inventory at the speedway. Plans call for going from 17 to as few as four or as many as six “grand entrances,” and Chitwood said he is gauging sponsor and marketer appetite for sponsoring those entrances in the same way New Meadowlands Stadium did with its four entrances when that venue opened. Cornerstone partners Verizon, Pepsi, MetLife and Bud Light took the names of the entrances, with MetLife later taking on full naming rights for the NFL stadium.

The speedway currently has three branded areas: the Sprint FanZone, a fan viewing platform in the infield; the Budweiser Party Porch, located in Turn 3; and Gatorade Victory Lane, located on pit lane at the start-finish line. Chitwood wants to increase that number if Daytona gets approval later this year from the city and track owner International Speedway Corp.’s board for its proposed renovation.

“We don’t have that many unique areas [for sponsors],” Chitwood said. “We have to think about this property moving forward and create a great fan experience and an experience that sponsors and brands want to be a part of. This could be one of them. We just have to get the ideas and input together [from sponsors and marketers] to be sure … whatever we do is good for the sport.”

The speedway and ISC filed initial paperwork in June with the city of Daytona Beach seeking approval for a major renovation of the facility. They recently received rezoning approval from the city’s planning board that will allow the track to develop everything from retail space to dining facilities to a museum. That was the first step in what is expected to be a series of approvals it will need from the city and ISC’s board before it can go forward with a renovation.

Chitwood said the grand entrances in Daytona’s preliminary plans would be expansive enough to accommodate escalators or stairs and perhaps even an elevated concourse that would make it easier for fans to get to the top row of the grandstand and back down for concessions. Currently, all the concessions are on the ground floor, and fans have to climb the stairs from that level to their seats at the top of the grandstand.

“We want [the entrances] to be massive,” Chitwood said. “It’s not just about entering the facility; it’s how you load the facility. Vertical transportation is a huge thing we have to figure out.”

Chitwood and Terry Kalna, ISC managing director of partnership sales and marketing, met with Charlotte-based sports marketing agencies in August to get their input on what their clients would want from a renovated Daytona. They shared preliminary designs with the agencies and sought their opinion on the viability of selling sponsorships to the entrances. “We want to know if it resonates,” Chitwood said. “We haven’t put a price tag on anything. We’ve not said that these are the assets.”

One of the things Chitwood and Kalna discussed with the agencies was the possibility of relocating the sponsor midway from its current position outside Turn 4 to a more central location outside one of the proposed grand entrances. Doing so would make it an area where fans would pass through rather than need to make a special trip to visit, and that might improve foot traffic at sponsor showcases, Chitwood said.

Another thing they talked about was improving the corporate hospitality experience at the track. The Daytona 500 is one of the largest, if not the biggest, event for corporate hospitality in NASCAR, but most of that hospitality is relegated to temporary tents in the track’s infield. Agencies told Chitwood that is one of the things they would like to see improve if the renovation takes place.

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