DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Promising to give fans comfort, amenities, ease of movement and plenty of awe, Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood revealed Friday more detailed plans for what could be the most talked-about track renovation project in NASCAR history.
After showing a video voiced by actor Tom Selleck and a high-tech animation tour to reporters inside the legendary Daytona track, Chitwood explained the specific vision for a massive redevelopment project that could begin as early as late 2013, depending on final approval from International Speedway Corporation senior management.
The project will include a new entrance fa�ade to NASCAR's most famous speedway and elevators, escalators and staircases to transport fans. It also calls for 11 sleek new concourses -- each the size of a football field -- strategically located around the superstretch offering fans all the amenities people expect in modern day sports facilities and featuring historical displays that give a nod to the 54-year-old track's history.
There will also be a complete makeover of the front-stretch grandstand seats -- which currently seat approximately 100,000 -- making them wider and installing seat backs and arm rests. There will be more restrooms and, much to the relief of fans, Chitwood said they will still be able to bring their own coolers to the track.
"We're giving this a professional stadium feel, something that makes people want to pull off the side of the road and take a picture of this,'' Chitwood said. "This is all about the fans. And what we're talking about is massive.''
The concourses will be called "neighborhoods" and include concessions, merchandise booths, restrooms and restaurants plus seating and social areas. The primary neighborhood will be located at the center entrance gate, one of five large redesigned entrances, and will be designated the "World Center of Racing Zone." It will be an open-air concourse where fans can catch their first glimpse of the famous track. The start/finish line will extend in a painted form on the concourse floor.
"This is where we show the uniqueness of Daytona, this is who we are,'' Chitwood said of this showcase entrance. "As you come here, this will be where you see Daytona for the first time, this is where you get it, that you are on hallowed ground.
"For the core customer, they know our story, but for the new fan this is where they say, 'I didn't know that.' The name Daytona means something and this is where we re-impress on everyone what Daytona means to our sport."
Chitwood said the construction will be done in phases and stressed that it is still subject to approval from senior ISC executives. He hopes to bring the final proposal before them later this year.
He also emphasized that any construction will not impact the timing of the sport's premier event, the Daytona 500. Construction work would be timed around the track's NASCAR and Grand-Am race weekends in February, motorcycle races in March and NASCAR July event. And he expects the project will be phased over a period of time, probably a couple of years.
"Any construction we do will not affect the date of the Daytona 500,'' Chitwood said. "Whatever we do, the Daytona 500 will absolutely continue to maintain its role as the first event of the NASCAR season.''
Because the final design and project haven't been approved yet, Chitwood said he doesn't have a cost estimate yet, but said it was fair to assume it would be one of the biggest projects undertaken on an ISC property.
Most recently, Daytona significantly upgraded its infield facilities in 2005, with new Sprint Cup Series garages and its unique "FANZONE" that features improved viewing areas and the chance for fans to watch teams at work through windows and even get driver autographs.
"It's a great example of the investments we make in Daytona,'' Chitwood said. "We needed new Cup garages and what we really built was the FANZONE and it was the way to take a garage and turn it into a fan amenity.
"It's the same kind of approach we'll take to this redevelopment. You can build a grandstand or you can really build a stadium, and that's the focus for us.''
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