New seats in the frontstretch grandstand, a new exterior, improved amenity and gate areas, perhaps even escalators instead of stairs -- Joie Chitwood has a grand vision of a redeveloped Daytona International Speedway that could include all of it and more.
The track's president announced Friday that the speedway has filed a redevelopment application with the city of Daytona Beach, with the goal of rezoning the property for a massive improvement project that could take years to complete. While no money has yet been earmarked for an undertaking still in the theoretical stages, Chitwood said the application is the first step toward what he hopes is an overhaul and modernization of the 53-year-old home of the Daytona 500.
"We have a great property, but it is over 50 years old, and we do have some seats out there that are original to the property from 1959," Chitwood said in a telephone interview. "So you talk about the next 50 years -- it's probably not a good idea to have seats that are 100 years old. For us, it's really the right time to think about what is next."
The ultimate goal is an ambitious one that would change the look of the exterior of the speedway, redesign the midway, add new entrance gates, suites, and amenity areas, implement some sort of vertical conveyance as an alternative to stairs, and overhaul the entire frontstretch grandstand. The most famous race track in NASCAR, Daytona hosts major motorcycle and sports-car races in addition to its two Sprint Cup events, one of which is scheduled for next weekend,
"When we use the word 'redevelopment,' we consider that to be big ideas," Chitwood said. "... Typically you don't go for a zoning change if you're just going for minor modifications."
In a statement announcing the application filed with the city, the redevelopment project was termed 'potential.' "There are still many unanswered questions that could impact or even derail this initiative," Chitwood said in the statement. But the track president also believes his grand vision for a new Daytona could become reality.
"I feel like it's realistic," Chitwood said. "... I think this is potentially real, but I also understand the economic climate in this country changes daily, and there are things outside of our control that could affect our ability to consider these things."
It won't happen quickly. Chitwood said the process of receiving approval from the city could take six to eight months, after which Daytona would have to apply to parent company International Speedway Corp. for capital funds to pay for the project. During that time, the track hopes to firm up designs, costs and construction schedules. Chitwood said that ISC gave Daytona the green light to apply with the city, even if it has not yet committed any funds.
"This is years. This isn't short-term. This is going to take years, this process," Chitwood said. "I can't tell you when, or if even we'll see something out of the ground that's new or different. But I know I couldn't get there if I didn't start this process with the city."
- Joie Chitwood
- Daytona International Speedway