DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- After months of excitedly showing off artist renderings and offering architectural explanations, Daytona International Speedway announced Tuesday it's ready to break ground on the track's historical redevelopment project.
Shovels hit the dirt in a public ceremony on Friday, July 5 with infrastructure preparation beginning at the facility on July 8 -- the Monday after the Coke Zero 400. Completion of the new state-of-the art frontstretch grandstands is targeted for January 2016.
"This is the key to our future,'' Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III told reporters Tuesday, as the track unveiled the project's new logo and philosophy: "DAYTONA Rising: Reimagining an American Icon."
"Everything about the race fan's experience from seating to concessions to merchandise to convenience will be reimagined to create the world's first true motorsports entertainment complex,'' Chitwood said, repeatedly promising the work would "harness the power of imagination.''
"Today is day 1 of 927 days that will get us to January 1, 2016,'' Chitwood said.
The estimated $400 million renovation focuses primarily on the massive frontstretch of the 2.5-mile superspeedway, enhancing the fan experience at the 54-year-old facility, considered the sport's flagship property.
It will include bigger, wider seats, additional vertical transportation in the grandstands, five new massive entryways and perhaps the most innovative part of the project, 11 "neighborhoods" -- each the size of a football field -- where fans can gather and mingle without missing any of the race.
Eventually the back straightaway or "superstretch" grandstands will be removed, rearranging all seating to the front, where Chitwood says every fan will have the opportunity to enjoy all the amenities. And, he stressed, the track is committed to continuing to provide free parking lots, and allowing fans to bring in their own coolers.
"We understand the commitments to the fan and have to readjust our pricing so there are affordable priced seats on the frontstretch,'' Chitwood said. "We're not going to leverage our ticket prices. We know fans need some good entry-level pricing. We are committed to this in our redevelopment. ''
International Speedway Corporation, which owns Daytona and 12 other race tracks, will finance the majority of the project after the Florida state legislature failed to approve a public/private partnership in its most recent session.
Chitwood said the primary difference in the plan now versus what was proposed to the legislature is that the track won't be significantly revamping the "midway" or outside area between the speedway and International Speedway Boulevard.
He did, however, promise to continue his efforts with the state, saying "I do believe we should be treated more fairly, like the other sports properties.''
Fans won't notice much difference to the facility next month for the annual Coke Zero 400 summer race as the initial work will be done largely underground and to infrastructure. The seating relocation to the frontstretch will happen in phases.
"For 2014, there will be no changes to any seats we have front or backstretch,'' Chitwood said. "In 2015, there will be some seat relocation. As we get closer to 2015, we'll communicate with fans. It will be significant.''
The speedway has already undergone significant reinforcement of its crossover gates in wake of an accident during the Feb. 23 NASCAR Nationwide Series season opener.
"It's the iconic race track of NASCAR, and I think it will be good for our sport to showcase what Daytona is,'' Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle said. "The race track is world-class I feel like -- the surface, infield and the garage area -- so it will be a great asset to the sport to see a renovation like that to the grandstand area.
"It certainly shows the health of our sport,'' he noted. "The economy is starting to turn around, attendance is getting better, TV ratings have increased a bit, there's a lot of interest in this sport and I see it every day.
"That renovation is going to be a good thing for us.''
After spending the last year talking and planning and promising, it was obvious that Chitwood is now ready and excited to get to work.
"Make no mistake it will be a challenge,'' Chitwood said "I don't expect any of us to get any sleep the next two-and-a-half years, but it's something we're all looking forward to.
"I would hope our fans will be thoroughly impressed with the attention to detail.''
(Left to right): Jim France, International Speedway Corporation chairman and vice chairman and executive vice president of NASCAR; Lesa France Kennedy, International Speedway Corporation CEO and vice chairperson of NASCAR; two-time K&N Pro Series East race winner Ben Kennedy prepare for the DAYTONA Rising announcement on Tuesday. (Daytona International Speedway)
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