The southeast region of Michigan is unquestionably the toughest hit area of the country in this current economic downturn. Unemployment rates are double digits and the automotive industry is doing everything it can to get back to viability. The track in Brooklyn is often belittled for hosting boring races, but there is no question that the people of Michigan come out in droves to support NASCAR whenever it makes a visit to the state.
The announced attendance for Sunday’s Cup race was 95,000 and from what could be seen during the television broadcast, that was a pretty accurate count. There were some empty seats in the turn 3/4 end of the grandstands, but the rest of the seats seemed to be quite full. Michigan has seats for just over 137,000 people and they are working very hard to ensure that as many of them as possible are filled on race weekends. There are tickets available for the August race starting at $22.50 and there is even a combination ticket that will allow a fan to attend the NHRA event at Summit Motorsports Park and the Cup race at Michigan for just $90. While times are tough and there are a lot of people scraping by to make ends meet, the price on these tickets still makes it possible for a family of four to attend a race weekend for $100.
Michigan is also investing a tremendous amount of money to upgrade their facilities and make the fan experience, as well as the racer and media experience, the best it can possibly be. Michigan is focusing intently on advancing a “green” initiative with a group of projects around its speedway grounds. In 2008, the track partnered with Coca-Cola and Schupan Recycling to reduce the amount of waste on race weekend. There are bins throughout the area for fans to dispose of aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles on race weekend. In 2009, more than 10,000 pounds of aluminum, plastic and glass were recycled through the program, nearly double that of the 2008 numbers.
Additionally, they have been planting a number of trees around the property to help offset the carbon emissions from the racing activities that take place throughout the year. Also included on the speedway’s property is nearly 200 acres of protected wetlands that they are continually trying to preserve and restore. Currently there are a few trails open to the fans that run through the wetlands, but there are plans to incorporate trails throughout the entire 1,400 acres of property.
The latest addition to this initiative is the upgraded media center and suite area along pit road that is using solar energy. The track now has 8,000 square feet of solar panels and has become one of the largest producers of green energy in American sports.
The speedway is not only investing a large amount of money, over $55 million in the last three years, they are doing their best to keep that money in the local economy. The projects that they have undertaken have created 1,110 jobs and 95% of the work completed was given to local vendors. The track pumps $400 million a year into the local economy with 44 full time employees, 110 seasonal workers and some 5,000 workers on raceday. The track contributes some $675,000 annually to charitable and service groups through track activities.
Michigan offers the drivers a myriad of racing lines and options when they are competing on the track. The facility also offers fans a great experience while they are at the track from a multitude of green incentives that also make the fan experience more enjoyable, to discounted ticket prices and charitable activities that allow fans attending the race to help out their friends who are going through hard times. The end result is that, even though the economy in the area is truly struggling, the track offers an oasis where people can forget about their troubles for a couple days and enjoy a great weekend of racing activity and amenities designed to give fans the most for their money.