Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood yesterday unveiled conceptual renderings which include grand entrances, wide concourses and improved amenities that “contemplate leaving the track's existing structures in place but making all those changes part of a proposed multiyear redevelopment,” according to Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. Chitwood said, “The world center of racing deserves this kind of project.” He added, “The expectation that our fans have is that we have this major sports stadium ... moving forward for the next 50 years.” DIS parent company Int'l Speedway Corp.'s BOD would “have to give its approval” before any improvements “could be tackled.” Chitwood said that he “doesn't expect he'll be ready to go before the board and other senior executives until later this year.” He said that if “he gets the thumbs up … he could start solidifying a timetable, budget and detailed plans for improvements that could include a number of new seats to be added to the current 147,000.” Chitwood said that the track “overhaul idea evolved over the past year following a facility audit” of ISC's 11 properties across the country “that included a look at what needed work in Daytona Beach.” Chitwood: "We thought, 'what would it look like if we really invested in Daytona, not just fixed this or fixed that?'" He said that the speedway for now “will focus mostly on the frontstretch grandstands.” The frontstretch, which “has 101,000 of the nearly 147,000 total seats at the track, is where many fans prefer to be.” Chitwood: “That's where we can touch as many people as possible. With pit lane and pre-race, that's where your fans are the most engaged.” He said the final product should be “what you expect in a professional sports stadium nowadays.” Chitwood said, “The customer today is a lot different than the customer of 20 years ago” (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 1/23). The AP’s Steve Reed noted the project currently will be “put on the back burner until after the Daytona 500 on Feb. 24.” Chitwood: "I hope to have something more creative in (late) February and I have to get in front of our senior management later in 2013 and hopefully at that point I will know cost because that's when I have to ask for approval. Then I will have more details about the timing" (AP, 1/22).
SMI is creating 100 high-end ticket packages that cost $10,000 and give buyers premium access to 13 NASCAR race weekends at all eight of the company’s speedways. The package, which is being called the “Chairman’s Club,” gives buyers suite seats, VIP garage tours, pit access, access to drivers’ meetings and victory lane, camping space, front row parking and personal concierge service. SMI President & COO Marcus Smith called it a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list opportunity. He added, “This is going to be a fantasy race fan club.” Smith announced the package at a SMI press event during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour in Charlotte. SMI is making '13 the year of the fan and introduced a series of fan initiatives across its tracks. Bristol Motor Speedway will give away 10 Ford Mustangs at its Food City 500 in March; Texas Motor Speedway will begin offering fans free tickets to another event if its race is rained out and they cannot attend the make-up race on subsequent days; Charlotte Motor Speedway is giving fans who have attended races for 50 years special lanyards and credentials; and Atlanta Motor Speedway is offering longtime ticket buyers behind-the-scenes tours of its facility over race weekend. The company also is going to begin an “undercover general manager” program this year. Track presidents from each of the eight tracks will attend a race weekend as a fan at one of their sister tracks. They will photograph and write about their experience online and share what they see with their colleagues in an effort to improve the fan experience.
The 49ers have signed NRG Energy as a founding partner of their new $1.2B stadium under construction in Santa Clara. The terms were not immediately disclosed, but typically, founding partner agreements at the major-league level are multiyear deals valued at seven figures annually. As the NFL team’s exclusive sustainable energy provider, NRG will install three solar array-covered bridges, a solar canopy above the green roof on the stadium’s suite tower and solar panels over the 49ers training center. The arrays will have a total peak capacity of about 400 kilowatts, providing enough power over the course of a year to offset energy consumed at the stadium during 49ers home games, according to team officials. The partnership also will help the new facility’s goal of becoming the first newly-constructed NFL stadium to be LEED-certified. NRG Energy joins Sony, Brocade, SAP and Violin Memory as founding partners (Don Muret, SportsBusiness Journal).
CUTTING BACK SOME: In Atlanta, Bluestein & Tucker report Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal yesterday confirmed that he “prefers a deal with less than the $300 million in public funding called for in a tentative agreement between the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority” for a proposed new downtown stadium. Deal said, “That seemed like a little bit high of a number. We’re still talking and hopefully before too very long we will have a proposal that will save the taxpayers a lot of money.” Deal added that he “remains confident a compromise can be reached.” Bluestein & Tucker note Deal’s stance “means team owner Arthur Blank faces the possibility of having to pony up an additional $100 million if he wants to preserve plans for a retractable-roof stadium downtown" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/23).
SCRATCHING POST: In Charlotte, Steve Harrison in a front-page piece reports the city could “cover almost all” of the NFL Panthers’ request for $125M to help pay for Bank of America Stadium renovations “by using Convention Center money.” But the N.C. General Assembly “would have to give the city approval to shift the Convention Center money to the stadium.” It is “unlikely it could be shifted to the stadium without approval from the General Assembly.” State legislators also “would have to give their approval to the city’s current proposal -- an increase in the local prepared food and beverage tax from 1 percent to 2 percent" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/23).
THE SUN ALSO SETS: Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said the Dolphins "would never be relocated” under team Owner Stephen Ross. In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis wrote Dee “used the question about whether Dolphins fans should be concerned the long-term stability of the team as a bridge to address the importance going ahead with the $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium that was proposed last week.” Dee said that it “could fall to a future Dolphins owner to address the stadium issue and determine the fate of the team if it doesn't happen soon, pointing out that Ross is 72.” Dee: “This facility cannot serve this team, the Hurricanes and the Orange Bowl for the next 25 years unless a major modernization takes place at some point. It is now or is it later?” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 1/22).
A CRAIN'S N.Y. BUSINESS editorial states if the USTA gets City Council and state Legislature approval for its proposed $500M expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, it "should make a small gesture to compensate for taking another two-thirds of an acre of park into its complex." N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration could "mollify the pockets of opposition to the USTA project by devoting more U.S. Open revenue to upkeep of the heavily used host park." But the project's "incorporation of one lane of a short three-lane access road and its addition of 393 parking spaces in a 1,255-acre park is all but insignificant next to the improved fan experience and economic impact it will bring" (CRAIN'S N.Y. BUSINESS, 1/21 issue).
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: In K.C., Mike Hendricks noted MLS Sporting KC in '10 "pledged to build nearly two dozen youth soccer fields in Wyandotte County as one condition of the subsidy for the 18,500-seat stadium now known as Sporting Park." Yet deadlines have "come and gone with none of the fields being built so far." Not even the "future locations have been identified for three inner-city fields that were supposed to have opened two years ago, or the 18-field, tournament-quality soccer complex that was to have been ready by this past Dec. 1." Team officials "insist they still intend to make good on their promise" (K.C. STAR, 1/18).
THE "WOW" FACTOR: In New Jersey, John Nalbone noted the Double-A Eastern League Trenton Thunder are "installing a state-of-the-art, multimedia video board that includes a 21- x 68-foot high density screen in right field" at Arm & Hammer Park, along with a "new 20- x 16-foot display in left field and a new 14- x 15-foot highway marquee." Thunder GM Will Smith said, "There is no doubt that fans will be 'wowed' when they walk into the ballpark and see the enormous screens" (NJ.com, 1/21).
JUST DUCKY: In Portland, Betsy Hammond reported Nike co-Founder & Chair Phil Knight plans to "add improved landscaping and accessibility features worth at least" $5M to the Univ. of Oregon's Autzen Stadium. Knight's donation is "intended to let fans exit quicker." Planning documents say the upgraded landscaping "will greatly improve the look and feel of the venue" (OREGONLIVE.com, 1/18).