Big changes are on the way for NASCAR’s most famous racetrack, Daytona International Speedway, with the most significant facelift since the track opened 54 years ago in 1959.
Home of the season-opening Daytona 500 and the early July Coke Zero 400, the track will undergo a multi-phase update that will break ground July 5, the day before this year’s Coke Zero 400. With a price tag estimated to be up to $400 million, construction will be completed in segments and is due for final completion in January 2016.
The majority of change will come on the frontstretch, which measures nearly one-mile in length.
All seats will be replaced with wider and more comfortable counterparts. There will also be 11 “neighborhoods” installed for fans to still be able to see the action while socializing with other fans — much like overlook areas typically seen at horse racing tracks. Each “neighborhood” will measure about the length of a football field, capped off by the “World Center of Racing” area that will be somewhat of an open-air museum touting the history of the speedway and its most memorable moments.
Plans call for construction of 53 suites. New entrances, additional restrooms and concession areas, escalators and elevators are also part of the improvement program.
But there will be a significant price to pay: DIS will see its current capacity of 147,000 shrink by more than 30 percent to about 101,000 seats, with plans calling for the elimination of all grandstand seating on the backstretch area. However, there are additional plans to bring seating back to 125,000 if future economic conditions and fan demand warrant it.
At its zenith, DIS once had a capacity of 162,000.
“The decision was made with strong consideration of the current macroeconomic condition and a clear view for our long-term growth,” Lisa France Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corp., which owns DIS, said in a statement. “We are truly creating history with this unprecedented endeavor.”
Even though capacity will be dramatically decreased, ISC and track officials insist they won’t make up for lost revenue from the eliminated seats with higher ticket prices.