Renovation proposal poised to launch speedway's new era
Calling the project a vision for the “next 50 years” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood announced plans for a major renovation to NASCAR’s crown jewel facility Tuesday during the Sprint Media Tour in Charlotte.
Chitwood cautioned that his team is in the very earliest of stages with the proposed project and will still need final approval, but he was clearly excited about the possibilities to improve the fan experience at one of sport’s great venues and unveiled artistic renderings of what the massive facelift might look like.
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“From the standpoint of what we have at our facility. … you’ve got an experience that is rich on history and heritage but isn’t quite there when it comes to what fans expect in terms of amenities, points of sale, all those elements,’’ Chitwood said.
“The Daytona 500 will always be the biggest event on the NASCAR schedule. It is our Super Bowl. We have to make sure as we talk about the vision of the 'World Center of Racing' that all of those elements that the fans enjoy live up to that. And this is our attempt to do that."
“You have to start someplace and we felt like these images really show everybody we’re thinking big.’’
Chitwood and Speedway officials have spent much of the last year getting the necessary local government clearances -- Volusia County and city of Daytona Beach zoning approvals. The proposal still needs approval from the higher-ups in International Speedway Corporation, which owns the track.
And the speedway has hired an architecture firm with experience in sports venues -- including work on Ford Field, home to the NFL’s Detroit Lions and New York’s famed Flushing Meadows tennis center.
“Part of the process I have to go through is creating this vision for what Daytona could be for the next 50 years,’’ Chitwood said. “So what you’re seeing (in the artwork) is some of that creative rendering of what it might be. “The second part to this is the continued business case I have to generate and produce so that my senior management here can consider its viability, hopefully later in 2013.
“But we worked so hard to get to this point, it just felt appropriate we start to give people an idea of what Daytona might look like.’’
The artist’s rendering shows a modern look to the outside of the venerable track and a real stadium-like feel inside.
Chitwood isn’t ready to discuss specifics yet, but hopes to be able to share more details about the project next month in the days leading up to the Feb. 24 Daytona 500.
“As it relates to how many seats are there, how many restrooms are there, when it gets to that point, we’ll have another session when we can get into detail,’’ Chitwood said. “This is the start, the big vision. If we’re going to host the Daytona 500 every year, it’s our biggest event, we have to make sure we’re living up to that expectation.’’
Unlike other sports whose teams pack up and move to another town or who build completely new arenas, the idea here, according to Chitwood, is to modernize without losing character or tradition.
“The beauty of our facility is that the start-finish line, the angle of that banking there, the angle of banking in the turns, those turns themselves; are the same track, the same location, the same dimensions that Lee Petty ran the first race and won,’’ Chitwood said. “That Dale Earnhardt won on, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won on.
“We might have changed the asphalt but that’s no different than changing the sod on a football field. In our sport, we don’t tear down and rebuild in a new location and so we can work on the amenities that our fans enjoy.
“But that start-finish line is the same start-finish line that the original winner of the Daytona 500 crossed. That gives us a unique ability to continue the heritage of Daytona while we work on the amenities around it.’’