SBJ/Feb. 24-March 2, 2014/Facilities

Shipping containers transform into new hospitality option

Don Muret
New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials have developed a creative prerace hospitality option for NASCAR fans outside of the sport’s corporate realm.

The Speedway Motorsports Inc. property is converting large shipping containers into mini-bars equipped with tables and chairs, plus televisions mounted inside the retrofitted space. A gas grill set up in front of the crates is part of the package.

Those units, 30 feet by 8 feet and known as Pit Box Hospitality ­— The Ultimate Party Zone, can accommodate 10 to 25 people. For the track’s NASCAR weekend, July 11-13, which includes the Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301, the pit boxes sell for $800 a person. The cost covers the price of race tickets, plus hamburgers, hot dogs, snack foods and continental breakfast. Beer is included in the package, and patrons can bring their own food, wine and hard liquor, officials said.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s new Pit Box
Photo by: NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Most pit boxes will be situated in the commercial display, hospitality and camping areas. Buyers may select an infield space, but moving the boxes inside to that pricier real estate would mean an additional charge of about $2,500, said David McGrath, the speedway’s vice president of corporate sales.

Tickets for three days of racing are midpriced tickets in the main grandstand, McGrath said.

To date, the track has built two pit boxes at a cost of $14,500 each and has sold both units, McGrath said. The track’s plan is to build more pit boxes as they sell them in the coming weeks, he said. Officials buy the containers from Williams Scotsman, a company specializing in constructing mobile buildings.

Driving the concept was the opportunity to meet the hospitality needs of race fans not connected to NASCAR’s biggest sponsors, said Jerry Gappens, the speedway’s executive vice president and general manager.

“You don’t have to be a big corporation to entertain here. … It could be a group of guys that want to have a good experience but maybe don’t own a camper,” he said. “You pull up in your car, this pod opens up, throw steaks on the grill, the beer’s cooled off and you throw a party.”

Gappens makes a habit of visiting the campgrounds during race week to visit with fans and get their feedback for how to improve the experience at the track. It was during one of those rounds on his golf cart that he gave a guy a ride from the shower house back to his camping spot.

“I asked him who his favorite driver was and he didn’t have one,” Gappens said.

Curious, Gappens asked him why he comes to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The man told him he attended a bachelor party at a NASCAR race five years ago at the track and enjoyed it so much he kept coming back just for the experience.

“You see a person like that … it made me think they might like to enhance it as well as what’s done for the corporate tent and suite for Sylvania,” sponsor of the track’s fall Sprint Cup race, Gappens said. “People from all walks of life have different budgets and different needs. It’s forced us as an industry to customize packages.”

> QUITE A FELLOW: Populous senior principal Earl Santee has been named to the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows, the group’s highest honor.

The fellowship program, founded in 1952, was formed to recognize outstanding architects who have made their mark in the profession and whose work has contributed to society as a whole. Fellows are elected by a jury of their AIA peers.

In his 28 years at Populous, Santee has played a key role in the design of 60 sports facilities internationally, including more than 20 MLB stadiums. Ballparks in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Denver and Minneapolis have helped revitalize those cities’ downtown districts.

This year, Santee is one of 139 AIA members receiving the honor. The organization has 80,000 members and only 3,000 have been named fellows.

Bryan Trubey, a principal with HKS and its director of sports and entertainment, and EwingCole’s Don Jones are two other sports architects on this year’s list of AIA fellows. They will be officially inducted into the AIA College of Fellows on June 27 during the group’s national convention in Chicago.

Santee joins Joe Spear and Ron Labinski as other Populous architects honored as fellows. Spear, recognized in 2007, is a senior principal at Populous and sponsored Santee’s submission. Labinski, one of the firm’s co-founders who is now retired, was named a fellow in 1994.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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