FROST: Big Tracks Must Grow Revenue

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Tim Frost

WILMETTE, Ill. — This month we will look at the facilities from an event programming perspective.

The business of generating money at a major race track is multi-faceted. Historically, it has centered around two to three key weekends a year. The Sunday feature events were top-tier series (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Verizon IndyCar Series) with support races running on Saturday.

Admissions, luxury suites, concessions, sponsorship and broadcast fees make up the bulk of revenue. The current economic environment has challenged these line items.

Hospitality related sales remain strong. Camping and RV bookings are solid. Many attend for an entire three-day period over the weekend. Going to the race track is considered a unique experience. RV dealers are renting turnkey units making it hassle free. Glamping with luxury tents has appeared at a few tracks. Stages have built to host concerts and temporary retail stores provide supplies.

These areas have not gone unnoticed by corporate sponsors. This can serve as an important part of trackside activation. Developing a relationship with race fans away from the racing in a casual setting result in a tight bond. Camping World’s relationship with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and events is the best example.

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Successful track operators are booking events outside their major races. Venue utilization is critical.

The concert/festival business is exploding. Well-established organizers are taking their acts on the road. Many are taking place at race tracks. There are many reasons: infrastructure, security, municipal relationships and lots of space.

The ability to access to the site before and after allows for an efficient setup process. Equipment needed to build and operate the concerts may be owned by facility or sourced with existing vendors.

The Austin 360 Amphitheater at Circuit of The Americas is the best example of a permanent concert venue at race track. It has a 14,000-person capacity with 6,700 reserved seats and expansive lawn seating. The venue will host almost 40 events annually attracting almost 500,000 visitors annually. This total exceeds the number of race fans for races at the adjacent 3.47-mile road circuit.

Almost every other major tracks host large music events: the Rolling Stones at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Country 500 at Daytona Int’l Speedway and the Faster Horses Festival at Michigan Int’l Speedway.

The ties between racing and music are deep in the roots of country and rock and roll. Mike Curb and Curb Records is a longtime sponsor of championship drivers and teams in all forms of racing from the Indy 500 to the Chili Bowl.

Big Machine Records’ Scott Borchetta has backed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for many years, including artists performing at the track.

It is important for these venues to operate year-round diversifying their revenue streams.