The Frontstretch: Umm... What Did You Think Was Going To Happen? by Jeff Meyer -- Monday September 19, 2011

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Umm... What Did You Think Was Going To Happen?

Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Monday September 19, 2011


Here is a question that has been bugging me for a long time. Why isn’t the NASCAR Hall of Fame fully owned and operated by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (aka, the France Family)?

Two years into its fledgling existence, well… I’ve found the answer. Hey, if you can get someone else to fork up 200 million to build, maintain and operate it, while you get royalties (if it ever makes a profit) by “licensing” it, why not!

Unfortunately for the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) and, ultimately John Q. Public, as with most things that bear the NASCAR logo, someone got lied to… big time!

Despite some high-profile inductions the last few years, including Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, and Bud Moore (pictured, left to right) attendance and profit at NASCAR’s Hall of Fame has failed to meet lofty expectations.

As it was recently announced, the NASCAR HoF, owned by the City of Charlotte and operated by the CRVA, posted a 1.42 million dollar loss after it first fiscal year of operation. Now, as most big businesses go, the report of a loss is really not a big deal. I mean in our society, somewhere during the growth of a business, if you do it right and have the right accountants who know not what the term “reality” means, it is perfectly acceptable to run a business and never once post a profit from it.

But here is the biggest kicker of all. Not only did the Hall lose money, it was projected, by one of those accountant types, that it was going to make an 800,000 dollar profit during the same time period! Who the heck was that person or entity? How can you be that far off? They money isn’t the only exaggeration that someone sold someone, though; there’s more! Here is an example, as reported in the Charlotte Observer just this past June…

NASCAR Hall of Fame expects increased attendance: Next year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame’s draft budget predicts revenue from admissions will increase nearly 20 percent, an optimistic projection that runs counter to the experience of many similar attractions. The Georgia Aquarium, for instance, saw attendance decline 25 percent for its second year, then 15 percent more from year two to year three after the initial excitement wore off. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland showed similar declines in its first three years of operation. Attendance at those venues – and many others – then stabilized. The city-owned NASCAR Hall of Fame projected 800,000 visitors for its first year. Instead, attendance was roughly 274,000, including 12,000 free visits during an open house in January. Before the hall opened last year, hall backers expected attendance to decline from the first year to the second year. The draft budget calls for $4.88 million in admission revenue next fiscal year, while this year’s admissions revenue is expected to be $4.15 million. A memo from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which operates the hall, said the admissions projections are based on a “stretch” target…

Who in the world projected the Hall would receive 800,000 visitors during its first year of operation? Does anyone else find it odd that the projected visitors and the projected profit (800,000) is the same number? Better yet, why is their head not on someone’s platter when the actual number turned out to be “roughly” 274k? What’s even funnier is that’s still a higher number than the NFL Hall of Fame, which churned out 191,943 visitors last year and competitive with the 281,054 people the Baseball Hall of Fame drew in 2010.

So how in the world does NASCAR get off with 800,000? Turns out these fantasy numbers are coming back to bite them, though. Here is the latest projected news about the Hall, this time from the Charlotte Business Journal…

More attendance woes for NASCAR Hall of Fame: Attendance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame fell by 35% in July from a year earlier, continuing a trend of declining results. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, operator of the $200 million publicly funded stock-car museum, reported the figures at its board meeting Wednesday. In July 2010, 33,452 people visited the hall of fame. Attendance declined to 21,910 in July 2011, the first month of the new fiscal year. July marked the third month of attendance slips of 30 percent or more in year-over-year comparisons. Those figures offer a barometer of interest in the hall of fame, which opened in May 2010. For May 2011, attendance was 30 percent below the previous year (25,034 visitors compared with 35,090 in May 2010). In June 2011, crowds dropped by 39 percent to 17,604 visitors for the month. Visitors authority board members didn’t discuss the hall of fame results during their meeting. A recent update to City Council included questions and discussion of whether ticket prices could be hurting attendance…

Really!? No one can figure out why? How stupid are “these” people? (“These” people, being direct descendants of the legendary “Them” and or “They!”) What makes them think that a “NASCAR” Hall Of Fame is more special than any other similar venture? Am I the only one left on the planet with common sense? I mean, I’m no freaking genius, but good Lord! Really!??

Despite all these economic woes, NASCAR itself has had a tender heart and has tried to lend a helping hand almost from the start as evidenced by this statement last November…

NASCAR only said that it won’t make any money from the Hall until it turns an operating profit. “The key point is we won’t take any money from the project until it’s successful,” said Paul Brooks, a NASCAR Senior Vice President. Under NASCAR’s contract with the city, Charlotte can withhold NASCAR’s royalty payments from the hall if it loses money. NASCAR is allowed to take a cut of 10 percent of all hall revenues.

Oh, in case you are wondering, of the 1.42 million dollar loss suffered by the Hall in its first year…only $979,563 of it is for royalties owed to NASCAR! Well, City of Charlotte, you climbed in the bed with these guys… what did you think was gonna happen?

Stay off the wall,
Jeff Meyer

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09/19/2011 08:58 AM

I don’t live in NC, but given the opportunity to visit the HOF I passed. I’m an avid fan but given the ticket price I feel I can better spend my money. I feel they are stretching out the inductees … They should try and “catch up” … At the rate they’re going it will be 2080 before there’s enough inductees and memorabilia to keep my interest and justify the price.

09/19/2011 09:13 AM

This was a turkey to begin with. Its a shame that the taxpayers are getting burnt. But I dont suppose its any worse than the publiclly owned stadiums.

The Mad Man
09/19/2011 09:41 AM

Well Jeff, what I smell is another Homestead deal where the taxpayers funded it, it operated at a loss for a number of years, then the France family picked it up for a song. I see the same thing happening with the HOF eventually.

09/19/2011 10:53 AM

I don’t know the details, so this is speculation, but does anyone remember when NASCAR decided to build the HOF? They certainly were shrewd in picking a city, shopping the Hall to several markets. If they had been doing it based on history and fan interest, they would have simply negotiated with Charlotte (and possibly Daytona Beach) to begin with. Instead, by creating a competition, they ensured that someone would be eager to pick up the tab.

That said, I’ve been a couple of times now, and I still don’t feel like I’ve had enough time to see everything and read all of the information. The Hall of Honor, where the inductees’ spires are, is still, obviously, sparse. But there is so much else to see that a race fan who is interested in all aspects of the sport and its history can easily spend a day getting lost in all the pieces of the sport that are presented. For the casual fan who only wants to see the inductees and maybe play the interactive games, it might only take a couple of hours, bit for a fan of the sport who wants to see many different pieces of NASCAR’s history, it is captivating and, IMO, worth the price of admission.

09/19/2011 11:05 AM

Why didn’t someone question these numbers? These boobs are looking at a career in politics.

I agree with Lydia. It will take decades for the current drivers to get in the HOF.

phil h
09/19/2011 11:13 AM

The Hall is really worth the trip and admission for a true Nascar racing fan.
Lydia,I feel you missed out on an opportunity to see wonderful exhibits and fun-filled interactive driving experiences. If you get another invite,check it out.

John Potts
09/19/2011 12:08 PM

Good stuff, Jeff. The most telling part of your treatise is the revelation that these people projected attendance at more than FOUR TIMES that experienced at Canton and Cooperstown, and more than twice of those two combined.

09/19/2011 03:47 PM

I wonder how many people who went to the Hall told their friends it wasn’t worth it? It isn’t to me either.

Tom Dalfonzo
09/19/2011 07:01 PM

Let’s get one thing straight: The NASCAR Hall of Fame belongs in Daytona Beach, FL, at the Streamline Hotel, to be exact. Why? It is where NASCAR was founded.

Daytona Beach was flat robbed of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I hate the NASCAR Hall of Fame and it will never have any support from me. The inaugural class should’ve been Bill France Sr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, and Red Byron, the first ever NASCAR champion.

Matt L
09/19/2011 09:07 PM

Living in New York, a trip to Charlotte just for the hall of fame would be hard to justify for the whole family. At least if it was in Daytona there would be a variety of tourist attractions for all.

09/19/2011 10:09 PM

I think France Sr. and Jr. should both be in – but as an automatic and not to be counted as votes. Those two votes could have (should have) gone to Pearson and Byron. HOF at Daytona? Do you really think Nascar (who run Daytona Beach) want Florida that pissed at them?


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
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Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.