The world’s third-largest, single-lit outdoor sports facility now has a new face. Drive towards Daytona Beach along U.S. 192 and a massive new, lighted sign that measures longer than a football field welcomes you to Daytona International Speedway (DIS). It’s the crowning touch on the three-year-renovation of Daytona Rising that’s replaced much of the iconic super speedway’s seating structure with a reimagined motorsports stadium. Fans could take their first look at the now complete, $400 million project during the “Roar Before the 24” testing event Jan. 8 to 10 before official completion Jan. 12.
During construction, Daytona Rising is estimated to have created 6,300 jobs, $300 million in labor income and more than $85 million in tax revenue for the Daytona Beach/Volusia County economy.* According to DIS, Florida-based businesses comprised 77 percent of the project’s 119 contractors and 80 percent of its 227 vendors.
Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and owner/manager of DIS, recalled her grandfather/founder Bill France’s original vision for the speedway. Kennedy said in a statement that DIS is once again “a world-class facility with premium amenities to provide unparalleled experiences for our guests and partners.” She also indicated the project’s completion enables the Daytona 500 and other events at DIS to continue driving ISC’s business model and serve “as a significant economic engine for the region.”
That engine packs a lot of horsepower. ISC and its 500-acre DIS motorsports complex power a $1.6 billion total estimated annual economic benefit for Florida, including $645 million in labor. The operations of ISC and DIS directly and indirectly generate more than 18,000 permanent jobs. Annual federal, state and local tax revenues are estimated around $241 million.
ISC and DIS officials are using these statistics to try and persuade the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to provide state funding to defray some of Daytona Rising’s costs through the Legislature’s Sports Development Program. They argue that while other professional sports attract mostly locals to a single game, major motorsports events at DIS bring fans from outside Florida to spend money with local businesses over several days surrounding the event. As an example, more than 65 percent of the crowd coming to the 2016 Daytona 500 will have traveled from other states, and more than half will spend five or more nights in Florida during their trip.
This is why ISC and DIS are planning even more developments aimed at satisfying the spending appetite of race fans. Coming soon is ONE Daytona, a mixed-use entertainment, dining and retail destination located directly across the street from DIS.
Meanwhile, Daytona Rising is the first major renovation at the 57-year-old speedway since 2004. The total amount of steel needed to complete Daytona Rising equaled one percent of the annual steel output in the U.S. Construction also required more than 30 acres of drywall and 10,000 gallons of paint. The design of the mile-long, 150-foot-high stadium also had to take into account the curvature of the Earth.
There are now five expanded, redesigned entrances, or “injectors,” to transport race fans up from ground level on a series of escalators and elevators to three different concourses. Once there, speedway patrons can stroll through spacious, 300-foot-long social “neighborhoods” before taking their assigned place in one of approximately 101,500 permanent, wider seats. If needed, there’s room for more, with space for an additional 25,000.
The facility has twice as many restrooms, three times as many concession stands, more than 60 luxury trackside suites and revamped corporate hospitality areas. Sponsors, or “founding partners,” Chevrolet, Toyota and Florida Hospital designed and branded more than 60,000 square feet of engagement areas, injectors/entrances and three of the 11 neighborhoods. There are flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi and a special smartphone app to assist fans with information.
In addition to next month’s Daytona 500, the speedway is now ready to host this month’s Rolex 24 and the Bike Week motorcycle races in March. Daytona Rising also will help the speedway to stage major events other than motor racing. For starters, a Country 500 Music Festival in May and an international Ferrari event this fall are now coming to DIS.
And, even though games have not been held there since 1975, DIS President Joie Chitwood III told Sports Illustrated in 2014 that he’d welcome an opportunity to bring top-level college football to Daytona.
The huge infield is already widely used by camping and tailgating race fans, which number several thousand more than any football game. Chitwood thinks DIS could shatter new records in that category. Famous for being the “world center of racing,” he envisions a day very soon in which Daytona Rising’s amenities help the speedway become the “world center of entertainment and sports.”
*Source: Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables, Fla.
Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Daytona International Speedway.