DIS president says $400-million facelift will make track entertainment hub
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The ambition behind Daytona Rising transcends revamping the grandstands and concourses of NASCAR's most famous track.
Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood said the $400-million project also represents a repositioning of the 2.5-mile oval as a multipurpose venue suited for music festivals, NFL games and NCAA events.
"When I think about Daytona International Speedway being the world center of racing, there's no reason we can't become the world center of entertainment," Chitwood said Friday during a tour of the construction, which is scheduled to be completed for the 2016 Daytona 500. "Whether it's sports, motor sports or music, the new property allows us to jump into it, and I like our chances of competing with other venues because of how unique we are. There are other historic properties, but we have as much heritage and tradition, and people would be excited to have their event here."
Chitwood said music promoters AEG and Live Nation have visited the property and proclaimed its footprint and size as ideal for a festival with several stages.
"I would anticipate a music festival here at some point," he said.
Daytona also has talked with Jacksonville Jaguars president Mark Lamping and athletic directors from various universities about holding NCAA football and soccer games. The UFC also is a possibility.
"We believe we will have more content here," Chitwood said. "I can't tell you which just yet. We want to make sure when we add an event that it's done right. We have to make sure the timing fits. Racing is still our primary sport. We've got to make sure whatever act we put in, it fits with the schedule. In all likelihood it would be very difficult to do new content around Christmas while prepping for January, February and March."
Daytona plays host to the sports cars and NASCAR for virtually all of January and February, then moves to motorcycles in March. The track also is adding a Global Rallycross event in August and the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) National runoffs next October.
"We've got to look at the fall, maybe the summer" for non-racing events, Chitwood said. "I'd envision a music festival and some other unique sporting event on the ballfield. We used to have Bethune-Cookman football here in the early '70s. It fits goal posts and a football game just perfect."
Daytona's seating capacity before the renovations began is listed in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup media guide as 146,000.
Daytona will have 40,000 new seats available for next year's Daytona 500. After the 2015 season, the backstretch grandstands – which have been closed for July races since 2009 -- will be removed, and the track will have a 101,000-seat capacity (all on the frontstretch).
There will be five new entrances, each equipped with six escalators. Chitwood said the track's new amenities would make Daytona an attractive option vs. other major stadiums.
"We can compete for special sporting events," he said. "I see football at Yankee Stadium and soccer friendlies at Fenway Park. I can't imagine we won't do a bang-up job for one of those types of sporting events at Daytona International Speedway."
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PHOTOS: History of the Daytona 500