- Daytona International Speedway will launch a renovation project July 5.
- The "Daytona Rising" project will completely revamp the track's spectator areas.
- Key to the plan is a downsizing of seating capacity, from 150,000 to 101,000.
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — A sweeping, three-year, $400 million project announced Tuesday will make revolutionary changes in Daytona International Speedway.
The project also officially ushers in an era of downsizing of NASCAR racing facilities, which expanded dramatically during stock car racing's peak growth in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century — and which now almost always feature conspicuous gaps of empty seats as attendance has lagged.
Some observers worry that the Daytona revamp may eliminate tickets that were under $100 for such events as the Daytona 500.
Permanent seating will be trimmed from more than 150,000 to approximately 101,000, with the massive grandstand towering over the exit of Turn 2 onto the back straightaway of the 2.5-mile tri-oval track to be dismantled.
Other tracks have been quietly removing some of the seats they added during the growth spurt. Huge banner signs, jumbo American flags and other devices have been used to cover empty sections of grandstands.
Daytona is the first track to publicize a downsizing, stating "the eventual decrease in capacity could occur in stages following the 2014 Daytona 500." All seats along the curved front stretch, with the famous "tri-oval" turn at the start-finish line, will be replaced by new, larger seats in a four-tier structure.
According to renderings of the new grandstand design, it appears that front-row seating will be moved upward and farther away from the track, a measure obviously intended to better protect fans from crash debris. More than two dozen spectators were injured when a car crashed through the catch fence during the February Nationwide Series preliminary to the Daytona 500.
Initial work on the renovation of the 54-year-old track will begin July 5, following the midsummer Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup Series race. Completion is scheduled for January 2016, in time for the Rolex 24 endurance sports car race.
Major events during the construction will be held on their usual scheduled dates.
The project, titled "Daytona Rising," focuses on the positive — on new spectator entrances, called "injectors," using elevators and escalators to efficiently move large numbers of fans into multi-level "neighborhoods," where they may mingle during racing events and take advantage of various amenities, all the while maintaining a view of the on-track action.
The central "neighborhood," one of 11, will celebrate the history of the track since its opening in 1959.
Edmunds says: Daytona is leading the charge into a new period in which the quality of the fan experience will be emphasized at major tracks. But will this shut out spectators who can't afford the big-ticket seats?