The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Nashville Prices Fans Out of a Day at the Races by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday April 8, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: Nashville Prices Fans Out of a Day at the Races

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday April 8, 2010

 

An off-weekend for the Cup Series precipitates a rare off-question weekend for yours truly. So let me interrupt your regularly scheduled column to bring you this special edition of Fanning the Flames. And as always, I can be reached using this link with your questions, comments, concerns and quiche recipes.

My wife is not a racer, she’s a dancer. While my evenings are filled with Race Hub, NASCAR Now and Trackside; Rachel’s are filled with Dancing with the Stars, America’s Favorite Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance. My Sunday is centered on a Cup race; Rachel’s on rehearsal.

And honestly, I’m OK with that. When I leave the office or shut the laptop down in the living room for the night, I know I can take a pit stop from all things racing by talking to her. It’s refreshing, really. She has her passion, I have mine, and they co-exist nicely.

Of course, there is a certain amount of crossover. She knows who I’m talking about when I say “ol’ DW” or what it means to hear “they’re in Talladega, baby!” Concurrently, I know who Nigel Lythgoe is, have (at least a rudimentary) knowledge of what it means to “lead” while dancing and how and when to “pull” and “push” while doing so — and the “push” has nothing to do with her front end not wanting to turn on the dance floor … or mine either.

Part of that crossover involves attending events we normally would not. For instance, I’ve been to every dance show she’s participated in since we started dating (something I’d never done prior), and along those lines, thought it’d be cool to introduce her to a day at the races. I wanted her to sit in the grandstands, smell the burning rubber and high-octane fuel, hear the scream of engines as the field came to the green, to feel the rumble through her chest … I wanted her to fully appreciate and understand what moves me — even if it didn’t totally move her.

So imagine my dismay when, two weeks ago, I visited Nashville Superspeedway’s Web site in search of a couple tickets to last Saturday’s Nationwide race and found the cheapest at $35 a pop. That’s right, for a guy to take his wife to the track, it was going to cost $70 just to get in the door … for a Nationwide Series race!

Tickets for standalone Nationwide races like last weekend’s in Nashville can often times cost as much, if not more than, a Cup event.

Now, I’ve never been accused of being a miser, but I’m not a free-spender, nor am I rich. We’ve got a mortgage, a car note, a student loan, and the typical assortment of bills to pay each month just like the rest of you. Throw in the grocery shopping, the gas, an occasional date night and, well … you all know the roundabout figure. The last thing I need is to drop $70 at the track. Check that, $70 just to get into the track for a Nationwide race.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that the crowds at Nashville Superspeedway — which is a half-hour drive from my front door — are bordering on pathetic. They have been for a couple years now. I mean, if cookie-cutter tracks are having a hard time filling up for Cup races, imagine how a Truck/Nationwide weekend would struggle … this ain’t Bristol, after all, it’s a 1.33-mile oval. So when I tell you maybe 5,000 showed up for the Truck race (it was announced at 7,000) and around 14,000 were on hand for the NNS show (the announced figure was 17,000 and the joint is said to hold 40,000-50,000), know that more Nashvillians can be found in one place when the Predators play a hockey game in the downtown arena (capacity: 17,000). And hockey isn’t exactly the favorite pastime in this bastion of the Bible Belt.

The weather here in Nashville was picture perfect last weekend too, and while most reckon that nice weather attracts a meaty walk-up crowd, that’s not necessarily so. After the unusually cold winter we had in Middle Tennessee, residents are bursting at the seams to get out and enjoy what little Spring we have before temps and humidity levels spike into the 90s. Yard work, exercise, or sitting on the deck of a midtown establishment enjoying a cold beverage were the orders of the day — not forking over an exorbitant amount of cash to see something other than the Cup Series compete. There are simply too many options with which to occupy one’s time on one of the single nicest weekends of the year … a weekend that also happened to house the Easter holiday. Yeah, I mentioned that “Bible Belt” thing, right?

So, dejected, I told Rachel we would not be spending a day at the track. I wasn’t going to spend $70 — much less the $90, $110 or $250 the good seats would put me out (and, God forbid, however much they tacked on for a pre-race trip down to pit road). She didn’t seem to mind, though. After all, you don’t know what you got ‘til its gone, right?

For those that may not find $70 an out-of-the-question figure (despite the current recessionary climate), I thought I’d do some research and see how far that would get me on a Cup Series Sunday in the coming weeks. No frills — just two adults looking to walk in the door. The results were eye-opening. So much so, it helped me to really understand why tracks such as Nashville are struggling: the track operators are totally oblivious to the local customer base and that the product they pitch is for sale in a superior form at a lower relative price just a few hours down the road.

My findings:

Phoenix: OK, so we’d have to fly, but a local Phoenix couple or father-son duo could make a quick Sunday trip to the track in Avondale and see the Cup race from the hillside for $70. If you want something inside, it’ll run you $110 for a pair of tickets. Pricey, but it’s the big leagues.

Texas: The cheapest seats at TMS are sold out, but had I been a week earlier with the inquiry, I could’ve had two seats on the backstretch for $80. This is the Cup show, mind you, asking a mere $10 more than what I had to spend for the Nationwide race here.

Talladega: Yes, of “they’re in Talladega, baby!” fame, the big track was asking for a two-day package at the exit of Turn 2 for an exceptionally reasonable $50. That’d get me and my girl in for two races — Nationwide and Cup — for a grand total of $100. Heck, that’s cheaper than a strip club … not that I frequent such places … it’s only, well, at Talladega there’s usually a strip show to be seen at some point during race weekend, so in that respect, it’s quite the bargain.

Richmond: Ah yes, quaint little ol’ Richmond. Old-school charm with contemporary amenities — and with some of the best racin’ on the schedule. Not surprisingly, RIR offered what may be the best deal of all: A $40 seat right about where Dale spun Darrell and started a young boy’s fascination with a thing then-known as the Winston Cup Series. Again, a mere $10 more than what I was asked to shell for a Nationwide race with half the quality of talent or entertainment and 1/16 the tradition.

Understand that I feel for the operators at tracks like Nashville. It’s a town that offers a plethora of options to a citizenry that, contrary to popular belief, isn’t even that crazy about big-time auto racing (we let two dates get away from the Fairgrounds in the ‘80s, after all). However, a simple economic principle such as Supply and Demand should tell them that when the consumer isn’t all that interested in the first place, he or she is even less likely to buy the product if it’s overpriced.

And if they didn’t realize this before, it should be painfully obvious now, because the fans spoke with their wallets … as in, “Our wallets ain’t here.” However, a quick visit back to their Web site yesterday showed prices for the June 5 Nationwide qualifying and race date at $45 a seat, meaning it’ll cost us even more to get in two months from now when it’s 90 degrees out.

Look, I’m a die-hard; a lifer. I’ll follow the sport regardless because NASCAR’s got me — and has had me for quite a while. And of course, I could have done what most of my colleagues in the media did and simply get a press pass — but I wanted to enjoy the race again as a fan and introduce a potential new one to it in hopes she’d realize why this sport is so great.

Instead, the track operators priced Rachel and myself, and most likely countless others, out of a day at the races.

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wcfan
04/08/2010 02:44 AM
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Matt
Once again nascar is pricing themself’s out of business, With the huge sanction fee the charge these tracks. The huge fee’s are the reason many of the great short tracks are no longer on the “Busch” or truck schedule. Thes tracks could not absorb the huge losses that ISC and SMI do for some of these races. I do not believe $35.00 is to much for a good “Busch” race, I was paying $30.00 in the mid 80’s for the “All American 400 ASA/All-Pro at the Fairgrounds, but I have not seen a good one in Nashville since they left the Fairgrounds. If they moved the June race back to the Fairground the could DOUBLE the price and still sell more tickets then superspeedway will.

PBFred
04/08/2010 05:27 AM
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Rack Fontana up as another track that has everything overpriced. I forget the actual ticket prices, and the upcoming NASCAR events aren’t listed on their site yet. But they aren’t cheap. Then factor in the food costs of spending an entire Saturday at the track… NNS Quals, usually 2 Cup practices, and the NNS race, and you easily can spend well over $50/person on just food and sodas/water. Triple that if you are drinking beer.

Even being out of work, it’s not that I can’t afford it, but it just isn’t worth it. I’d rather just watch it on TV instead of spending that much money at a track that just continually degrades its Fan Experience every time I’ve gone there.

Plus, out of the 48 rows of seating, if you aren’t in the top 15-20, you can’t see the back stretch at all. You can barely see it from the 48th row (which happens to be the handicap row, and my dad is handicapped). They really should have raised the back stretch by 20 feet or so to be above the campers. All-in-all, they really need to tear up the track and redo Fontana. The track has weathered in rather poorly, leading to extremely boring racing, and they have done nothing about it.

Sharon
04/08/2010 07:55 AM
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I am not a Johnson fan so therefore I would pay more to see a Nationwide or Truck race than a Cup race. I actually see more racing there than I see with Johnson leading lap after lap every race.

Gina
04/08/2010 09:25 AM
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Richmond finally got a clue — they were one of the tracks that for a while did the “season package” deal including IRL, sprint cars, plus Busch and Cup races. We did that one year and honestly, it was literally throwing money away since we only wanted the Busch and Cup race tickets. Can you say Economically unfeasible? Interesting info about the Phoenix race though, we’ve been talking about trying that out one year – maybe it’s worth checking out.
I like the Nationwide races much better than the Cup races these days. You actually get to see cars that look racy (not like a brick with wheels) and competition on the track, not follow the leader garbage. I have to say, I’m with another fan who says that watching the 48 being the “team to beat” each week has also led to my lack of interest.

midasmicah
04/08/2010 10:11 AM
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Once again, why pay too much for “cup light” races when you can see the real thing for around the same money. And did you notice that the Phoenix Nationwide race doesn’t start until around 6:30 pm pacific time. That would make it 9:30 pm eastern time. That’s asking peop[le to stay away or simply not watch it on tv.

william holton
04/08/2010 10:22 AM
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maybe if the drivers coulddo on less than 20mil.prices would get more better

Glenn
04/08/2010 10:40 AM
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you are exactly right! Memphis did the same thing! While I don’t subscribe to the “$10 for the cheap seats just to fill the grandstand mentality” a dose of financial reality is definitely needed!

wcfan
04/08/2010 12:36 PM
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Gina
I visited Phoenix many time in the late 80’s early 90’s and always enjoyed the track and the racing. I sat in the dogleg, tickets were like $30.00

Robert Eastman
04/08/2010 01:08 PM
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“Magic pricing” is the secret to sales success. Have you noticed how most things on infomercials sell for $19.95? People are happy to throw away a $20 bill for anything that catches their fancy. I’m positive that the crowd would more than double at 20 bucks each and a heck of a lot of very profitable concessions would be sold. Concert promoters and movie theater owners make the majority of their profits on concessions. Most all wealth is built on volume, not on “ripping off” the customer… with Wal-mart being a prime example of this theory in action

Melissa
04/08/2010 02:00 PM
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I just saw this pricing from Ricmond:

$23 for General Admission for the NW race.

$35 for the backstretch and $65 for turns 1 & 2 for the Cup race

Razz
04/08/2010 02:42 PM
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$35 a pop may be a bit much … I’d pass even if it were next door. However, I went and checked on Nashville Predators tickets .. and it seems they’re $32 for the nosebleed seats, so maybe it’s not (just) the pricing that’s keeping those bleachers empty

Luwanna
04/08/2010 04:04 PM
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My son wants to go to Gateway and the tickets there start at $45. I would love to be able to pay $35 per ticket. But ya know for my son I would pay more just to make him happy.

M.B. Voelker
04/08/2010 07:29 PM
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OK, that’s out of the question for me too.

However, you’d easily drop that same $100 on dinner and a movie even with a very modest intake of only a single glass of wine each.

For the sake of comparison, how much for a football game? A basketball game? A baseball game?

How much for live theater? How much for those dance events of hers if you had to buy a ticket?

How about a day at a museum? An amusement park? A concert by a reasonably well-known act? A concert by a decent symphony orchestra?

Its not just Nascar. The plain truth is that going out to any sort of event is pricey — often too pricey. But facilities cost money to run and the day of the $5 ticket to anything at a pro or semi-pro level is pretty much over.

mkrcr
04/08/2010 08:43 PM
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Heck, I can spend that much going to my local 5/8s with the Late Model show. But I’m glad to do it ‘cause the racing’s way better and it helps support it as well.
In this economy, for the overall experience, nothing beats your local short track. And I don’t sit in traffic for 3 hours after.

Steve
04/09/2010 03:05 PM
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Another thing that might be hurting attendance is that the Cup series was just at Bristol a few weeks ago. Not sure why we need another race in Tennessee so close together. I’m sure most people in the area would rather go to Bristol.

Rob in NC
04/09/2010 04:25 PM
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Steve makes a point. At this point in the season all of the races are clustered together. We’ve had six races in three weeks, when the tracks are only about 7-8 hours apart (when you consider that most people travel, that’s not far.) Add in Atlanta and you have 9. No wonder attendance is down!

 

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