Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials will announce today the construction of six mini-suites overlooking pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 15-person outdoor suites, built about 11 feet above the NASCAR pit crew boxes, are at the center of pit road, on the track’s “50-yard line,” according to CMS Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Dan Farrell. The suites with roof cover are tied to three-year deals at a cost of $45,000 annually. In return, suite holders will receive 15 tickets to eight NASCAR events every year. Catering provided by track concessionaire Levy Restaurants is a separate fee. To date, SMI has sold four of the six suites, including three to JR Motorsports, UPS and 3M. SMI has a contract pending for a fourth pit road suite and track officials are confident the remaining two units will be sold by May 19, the date of the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race, Farrell said. As part of the pit road suite package, suite holders get exclusive access to the new Winners Circle Lounge behind the structure. The lounge, formerly the Sunoco Gas Station, will have a bar, a meeting room, televisions and restrooms.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: CMS' pit road suites follow a trend started at other NASCAR and open-wheel race tracks to bring premium patrons closer to the action. Michigan Int'l Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and the IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach previously installed high-end hospitality units along pit road.
The KFC Yum! Center by all accounts has been a "spectacular success since it opened in fall 2010, meeting every expectation except one -- profitability," according to Marcus Green of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. The Kentucky State Fair Board, which "manages the building for the Louisville Arena Authority, expects net income of about" $500,000 from operations in '11. That is "far less" than the $1.2M budgeted, and a "fraction" of the $3.7M forecast when the project was financed in '08. The lower profit margin has "potentially serious ramifications for paying off the arena, which depends on a mix of money that includes steadily growing tax revenue near the building, corporate sponsorships and an annual payment" by Louisville Metro Government. If any of those "fall short ... arena leaders had planned to fill the gap by tapping leftover funds from the center’s operations." The Louisville Arena Authority is "due to receive a consultant's report evaluating the building's operations" in April. Arena Authority Chair Jim Host said that the "preliminary figures for the building's first full year show revenues are exceeding expectations, but the costs of running the arena are much higher than projected." Host added that revenues from arena operations, such as concessions, rent from the Univ. of Louisville and ticket fees, are expected to be $9.7M for the year ending in '11 -- higher than the $9.6M consultant Leib Advisors projected. But Host said that expenses, which were "originally estimated at more" than $5M, are expected to be $9.2M for the year. The Arena Authority indicated that the panel would "dip into a maintenance account to come up with an estimated" $3M shortfall in debt payments for '12 (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 3/22).