The Frontstretch: Voices From the Cheap Seats: ISC/NASCAR Setting the Stage For Price Hikes by Jeff Meyer -- Friday July 12, 2013

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International Speedway Corporation and its conjoined twin NASCAR, both children of the France family, have set the stage for certain price hikes for the privilege of seeing their “show”. Not content to just elevate ticket prices, they unabashedly want to cause you, the loyal fan, more stress and nervous tension. At least that is what I read between the lines from a recent press release.

ISC to continue cutting track seats: International Speedway Corporation already has decreased the capacity of its tracks by 17 percent from 2007-2012, cutting capacity from 1.1 million to 909,000. And it pledges more cuts. Daytona International Speedway, which once had 168,000 grandstand seats and currently seats 147,000, will seat a mere 101,000 (not including suites) by 2016. ISC, whose stock is primarily controlled by the NASCAR-owning France family, told financial analysts last week that it plans to decrease capacity at several more racetracks. Other tracks cutting capacity points to at least a 25 percent reduction from 2007. Company officials said seats without views of pit road don’t deliver as good of an experience. Or seats too far from many of the midway areas or the prerace activities don’t allow fans to take advantage of those amenities.

In order to create urgency and worry among ticket buyers, ISC will cut the number of seats available. They don’t want fans to wait on the weather. They want fans nervous that if they don’t buy early, at best they will end up disappointed with their seat, or at worst, out of luck because the race sold out. ISC’s answer is to decrease the number of seats. In some ways, that is an acknowledgment that fewer people attend live sporting events overall purchasing habits of sports fans have changed and packed grandstands at facilities that can hold 125,000 will never again exist.(Sporting News)(7-10-2013)

Are these people insane? Here are a few points that I’d like you to consider.

Why did places like Daytona grow to have 168,000 seats in the first place? It was because the loyal fans liked the racing, the racers and their availability and the overall ‘specialness’ of seeing a race in person. So why did they stop coming? Well, the economy was rough, the racing sucked and appeared contrived and NASCAR and locals motels made no bones about taking every bit of your money they could possibly lay their hands on.

Meanwhile, NASCAR is making multi-billion dollar network deals with various networks, each of which had their own way of annoying the fans to no end with shoddy coverage and stupid gimmicks. Suddenly the seats are no longer filled. Attendance and ratings dropped steadily, and it was getting harder and harder to hide the huge patches of empty seats on television. It has gotten so bad that, citing the reason of stopping ‘financial projections’, or something stupid like that, NASCAR won’t even tell you how many people attended the race anymore.

So, who does reducing the number of seats at any given track (at Daytona by almost the entire capacity of many major sports venues, nearly 70,000!) benefit? Well, it’s a lot easier or at least looks a lot better to potential sponsors or “official partners,” to have to show only a few thousand empty seats on TV than say, nearly 70,000! It sure as hell ain’t aimed at benefiting the fan that is for sure! In fact it will be just the opposite.

When NASCAR was the one that was ‘worrying’ or ‘nervous’ because the fans were not coming anymore, things actually had finally started to turn in the fan’s favor. Less crowds meant you could get better seats and the prices started to come down for the loyal (keyword there) fans who still chose to attend. Fans, for the first time in a long time, were finally starting to get the better end of the deal. You’d think that would be a trend that NASCAR would want to continue, but no! They want to go the totally opposite way.

They want, even admitting it publicly, YOU to have to worry or be nervous about not getting a ticket by reducing the number available…but, and this is key here, they want to ‘enhance’ your experience while you are there, if that is, you are lucky enough to get a ticket!

Folks, it’s simple. We all know what happens to the price of an object when everybody wants one but only a few are available. Why did they spend the money to build and remodel all those speedways to accommodate more fans in the first place? Because at one time, especially the few years following Dale Sr.’s death, everybody and their grandma was, wanted to be or pretended to be, a NASCAR fan. Now those fans are long gone and by the way of NASCAR’s greed during those years, not to mention a total lack of integrity, so are millions of hard core fans that paid for all those extra seats and improvements!

Make no mistake about it. NASCAR and ISC will raise the prices but guess what? It will do nothing but backfire on them! Once they’ve started down this particular slope, there will be no turning back.

You have to WANT to go see a NASCAR race. Just because there are less tickets available is NOT going to bring the fans back or fill up the stands.

I’d rather have more seats, more choices and cheaper prices. Now that’s the way to bring back the fans!

Remember dear fans, it was finally ‘talking with our wallets’ that made the France family worry and nervous and start to listen to us. Please don’t buy into their latest BS and let them turn the tables as they so piously claim to do!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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MJR in Springfield, VA
07/12/2013 08:21 AM
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My Daddy always used to tell me this “Desperate men do desperate things…” Well ISC and NA$CAR are screaming full-speed towards ultimate desperation. You will now when they finally hit the wall when every ticket comes with a free puppy. Been saying it for years…here’s what it really stands for:

Now
All we
Seriously
Care
About is
Revenue

Tony
07/12/2013 08:22 AM
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They want it to look better though. If there is 100,000 people in stands that seat 150,000 the place looks empty. If there is 100,000 and the track seats 101,000 then it is packed. The seating capacities are WAY over the reasonable attendence at most tracks. If they are being used to hold banners, then they probably could be taken out. Move more people to the frontstretch so it looks better for tv. Makes sense to me.

Dan
07/12/2013 02:04 PM
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Quote from article:” prices started to come down for loyal (keyword there)fans who still chose to attend.” I’ve been renewing the same 4 seats for the Daytona 500 for over 30 years.If that’s not loyalty I don’t know what is. Prices of those seats have never come down,only gone up and I’m talking $190 per seat as of now.The only thing done for me as a loyal fan was I was given the opportunity to pay for the tickets in installments(bill is received in April) with the last due in September, 6 months before the race! That’s only been the last few years.That’s the only break I’ve gotten as a loyal fan.

Earner
07/12/2013 02:37 PM
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Big Bill & Bill JR must be rolling in his grave watching the circus his offspring has built..Tearing down slowly something that worked & taking it to finacial ruin…Good article & Nascar talk with your wallet

GinaV24
07/12/2013 02:59 PM
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Going to a NASCAR race used to be fun and exciting. Brainless tried to “fix” something that wasn’t broken. First they overbuilt at tracks all over the place, right before the economy tanked. Then they screwed around with the cars, the tires and the championship format and people lost interest.

Now they are going to try and do the supply and demand gig, but it may be too late. Unless they FIX the major problem which is the lackluster racing and increase it’s value, it won’t work.

I won’t be hurrying to buy tickets for any track unless the “fun” part of the equation returns.

I’ve pretty much given up on the TV broadcasts. It doesn’t matter who does it, its not worth watching.

Fed Up
07/12/2013 07:15 PM
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Brain Farce and his beach bums will ride the expansion at Daytona on the backs of taxpayers. Remember just last year that Congress gave a major tax break to NA$CAR for track improvements. Ticket increases will be small compared to the tax benefits. Our sport is being run entertainment execs. and tax accountants.

Russ
07/12/2013 08:25 PM
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There is an old saying in business: “if you can sell everything you make you’re not charging enough”. So Nascar/ISC is obviously looking for that point. The point where they can maximize revenue for the available seats. Only question is how long to recoup the 400 mill they are allegedly spending at Daytona. Although I’m sure there is a tax break or two in there.

Jeff
07/12/2013 10:01 PM
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Been a season ticket holder at Chicagoland since it opened. This year they were happy to report my tickets for the Nationwide Race in July had been upgraded from the 65th row to the 5th row and closer to the start finish line. It looks like all of the ISC tracks will be offering their long time fans these same types of upgrades. My bet is they will need to remove all 80,000 seats at Chicagoland in the near future.

Jeff Meyer-FS STaff
07/12/2013 11:23 PM
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Folks, Jeff here has to be one of the most loyal fans of all! I’ve been to a race at Chicagoland, back when the inflatable orange broke loose and went down the frontstretch in the wind during qualifying….Tony Stewart won the race….vowed to never go back there again. IMO Chicago is probably the worst track on the circuit….heck, I rather attend a race in Fontana than Chicago.

Kudos to you Jeff for sticking it out this long!

On a side note, some of my best partying stories come from that race, but it has nothing to do with the racing…just interaction with once ardent, fun loving fans such as I once was!

Overr88ated
07/14/2013 08:39 PM
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Bend over fans, the Gouge is returning. Jeff …. Like you, I spent 9 years being forced to buy the “infamous” Chicagoland Track Pack for each seat, just to see a Cup race closer to home. Ate a lot of tickets we didn’t want or need. Kansas City also ran the same scam for 9 years.

 

Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
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