By Joel Hall
With the Kobalt Tools 500 race only a few weeks away, Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton is spending $1 million to make its corporate hospitality facilities more attractive. It is also preparing to treat fans to night races starting on Labor Day.
One of the only venues of its kind, the speedway's infield hospitality area puts race fans willing to pay a little more right next to the action on the track. The speedway is currently in the first phase of renovating the hospitality area for its corporate customers, paving over a gravel lot and adding a series of infrastructure improvements.
Speedway President and General Manager Ed Clark said the first phase of the project will be completed prior to the Kobalt Tools 500, on March 8, and will include new fencing, utility improvements, and a new paved entrance. He said the area would improve relationships with the speedway's corporate supporters and make Atlanta Motor Speedway stand out among other race tracks around the country.
"It's going to be a little over a million dollars when everything is done," said Clark. "It will be a much more pleasant and appealing place for corporate clients to entertain their guests. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and we are the only two racetracks I know that have infield hospitality areas. I think we would compare favorably with any NASCAR track around the country and ahead of many of those, from a facility standpoint."
The second phase of the two-phase project will include additional landscaping, an electrical entrance sign, more fencing and concrete retaining walls. Clark said part of the project would be complete by Labor Day.
Marcy Scott, director of marketing and promotion for the track, said the improvements to the infield hospitality area had been put off until recently to complete other projects for the general public.
The track completed $40 million in renovations and repairs after a tornado in 2005, and completed $20 million of improvements in 2006, including a new winner's grandstand and Club One, a public viewing suite with capacity for 700, and a rooftop observation deck.
"We've had this facility for a long time, but now we are able to make it a better experience for our guests who are coming here," Scott said. "We're unique in racetracks in that we have the space available to do corporate entertainment in our infield. It puts you closer to the action."
Scott said the speedway will soon fulfill the wishes of fans by adding night races to their NASCAR Sprint Cup race series. The Pep Boys Auto 500, traditionally in October, will be moved to Labor Day and rescheduled as a night race.
"Our fans have been asking us for night races for years now, and we are excited to be offering them the one thing they have been asking for," Scott said. "It just provides a different atmosphere. People can see the sparks when the cars hit the track. People can come out during the day and tailgate, and then end the day with the race and fireworks."
Clark believes the night races will make the races at Atlanta Motor Speedway more popular.
"Night racing is something they have grown up with," he said. "It makes the cars look even faster ... the light is concentrated on the track and the racers and away from everything else."
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