AVONDALE, Ariz. – When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolls back to ISM Raceway in November, the track will sport a revamped look.
The $178 million renovation project of the Arizona track began January 2017 and is set to be completed in the fall. From the revamped grandstands to the new hospitality facilities to the relocated start/finish line, the renovations were designed with three Cs in mind: convenience, comfort and connectivity to make ISM Raceway “even better,” said Kristie Maggs, senior director of consumer and digital marketing.
“(Convenience is) why all the stands are located on this side of the building because it’s closer to parking,” she said, leading the tour into the grandstand construction zone Saturday. “You’ll notice right now we’ve got bench seating. The entire grandstands will actually include these new flip-down seats. They’re super comfortable, they have flexibility, arm rests and cup holders. So, as far as comfort and convenience goes, that was really important to us for our fans.
“The other piece is connectivity. … The entire grandstand will have Wi-Fi in it … we have full connectivity, which will be the first of its kind on the NASCAR circuit. We’re really excited about that because, as we know, fans like that connection. Connection to the track, connection to each other and connection to the drivers.”
When the renovations are complete, there will be 45,000 new grandstand seats and 54 suites. Three of the suites are considered garage suites, which offer fans an on-the-ground experience in the race action. Nearly the entire infield area will receive a facelift, offering fans more access to drivers and teams in the garage with new viewing areas.
While several of the amenities are still under construction, many new features made their NASCAR debut during last weekend’s races; one of the new entry ways (referred to as “canyons”) with new elevators was open for fans last weekend, as well as the infield’s The Wheelhouse/Roll Bar and The Trackside Bar and Grill.
“The Trackside Bar and Grill was created with two things in mind,” Maggs said. “We wanted to have a fantastic place for race-goers during the day to hang out, enjoy drinks and some food with their friends and also we wanted to have a great place to entertain our campers at night. Previously we had something called the Busch Garage that was just for campers. We wanted to mix the two, so we came up with this Trackside Bar and Grill.
“So anyone with a race ticket can enter through the midway or the DC Solar Power Pavilion during the day with a race ticket. Come in here, hang out, have food and drinks … but as soon as the green flag drops, we open up this side of the fence, too, so campers can come in. They can watch the race on the TVs, interact with each other and we also have nightly entertainment on the stage here.”
Open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, The Trackside Bar and Grill saw several fans enjoying its amenities midday Saturday ahead of the Xfinity Series race. Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” boomed on the speakers as bartenders served thirsty patrons in the Americana-themed setting. Even the menu is revamped, offering fun options like a red-white-and-blue burger with blue cheese.
With all the newness, Maggs said it was important to also give fans a sense of familiarity.
“Because it’s all new, we brought in the bartenders that were here previously in the Busch garage and that were here in Sweet Cantina before it, so that the fans really knew that this was their place,” she said.
“So far, the fans have loved it,” she continued later. “We’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback; it’s been jumping all night.”
For those looking for more of a premium experience, there’s The Wheelhouse/ Roll Bar. A red carpet leads fans into the spacious interior of the Roll Bar. An airy space with indoor and outdoor seating options, the Roll Bar offers an option for fans looking for an upscale hospitality experience at the track.
From a competition standpoint, the start/finish line will also move from its current location to what is now Turn 2 near the unique dogleg section. The reformatting will encourage a variety of restart plays, something that drivers like Joey Logano are excited about.
“It is going to be awesome,” Logano said Friday. “It will open up more than any track we go to now. There will be plenty of lanes to pick from and it will all funnel down into Turn 3 and more off Turn 4 and one more time off Turn 1. Everyone will have to find these holes to get back into but there is so much opportunity when you cross the start/finish line for pulling out.
“I think there will be some crazy moves there. Maybe drivers that are too aggressive and make the move too soon, which may cause a penalty. Maybe drivers will be too aggressive in Turn 3 and slide up the race track.
“I am excited about it. I think it is a great change this track is making. Obviously we will all get kind of suckered into how the garage is going to be better and the grandstands will be better. I agree and I am glad they are doing that.
“The racing part is a step that is probably hidden in this whole thing.”