DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Daytona International Speedway hopes that if they rebuild it, fans will come.
Daytona Rising, a $400 million makeover, is on schedule for a grand re-opening for the 2016 racing season, track president Joie Chitwood said.
The sport is going through a metamorphosis as facilities are being modernized. The Texas Motor Speedway just completed the world’s largest high definition television on the backstretch and the Talladega Superspeedway has plans for a significant upgrade.
The aspiration for expansion has been replaced by a greater need for comfort and downsizing. Once completed, Daytona will have fewer but bigger seats, better sightlines and “social neighborhoods” to give fans plenty to do before, during and after the race.
“After (seven) months, I can tell you it’s been amazing,” Chitwood said. “The amount of steel that’s gone in, the concrete, ultimately 16 million pounds of concrete in the ground.
“Reality now is about changing the experience for our fan for the next 50 years and that re-imagining of an American icon. We’re excited that on top of all the projects we’re working on, we get to kickoff NASCAR’s season. We’ve got some great things planned for this year.”
Once completed, Daytona will have 101,000 seats and twice as many restrooms. The grandstands along the backstretch will be torn down so the speedway can focus solely on the frontstretch.
Construction started in July. There are two huge skeletal towers in Turns 1 and 4. Fans at Sunday’s Daytona 500 will have to navigate through construction zones, but Chitwood insists everyone’s patience will be rewarded.
“As NASCAR continues to reinvest in their sport and work on technology and those investments, we’re doing the same thing at Daytona and planting our flag in the ground and spending $400 million to remake that customer experience and provide our fans the best experience in racing,” he said.
The project is the biggest investment in the history of the parent company, International Speedway Corp. It also could be a financial boon to the entire area.
According to the speedway, Daytona Rising will bring:
• More than 6,300 new jobs during the construction.
• More than $300 million in labor income during construction.
• More than $85 million in new federal, state and local tax revenue throughout construction.
• More than $1.6 billion each year in total economic benefit to the state of Florida, including $645 million directly to the labor force.
• The combined operations of ISC and the speedway directly and indirectly generate more than 18,000 permanent jobs in Florida.
• Once completed, more than $241 million annually in federal, state and local tax revenue from race fans.
For now, Chitwood is happy to see Daytona Rising move from planning to a hard hat zone.
“Reality in our world is concrete, steel, hard hats, hard work, because we are changing what the Daytona International Speedway is,” he said.