DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The home of The Great American Race is about to get it's greatest makeover.
That's the plan offered Friday morning by Daytona International Speedway track president Joie Chitwood. The project isn't yet set in stone because senior management in the track's parent company International Speedway Corporation hasn't approved the behemoth renovation. That's a step Chitwood intends to pursue by the end of 2013. The track also plans to pursue state funding legislation similar to that received by other professional sports franchises in Florida.
So for now, the plans are merely plans. But should they come to fruition - it's hard to see why Chitwood would discuss them so publicly if they had little chance of succeeding - the face of NASCAR's most iconic track will forever change.
Renderings show a dramatically altered frontstretch seating area with four different seating levels and a completely new tower overlooking the start/finish line designed to house suites, broadcast crews, press and officials. The existing light standards would be replaced with horizontal versions above the seating area, giving the entire seating area the impression that it was a football stadium cut in half and stretched along the expanse of Daytona's tri-oval and short straightaways exiting turn four and entering turn one.
Major changes would also occur underneath the grandstand to replace an infrastructure that today looks more like the creation of a young child playing with a Erector Set. Currently, grandstands built with wooden flooring are encompassed by decades of expansion at the facility and topped with multi-color seat backs. There are various elevation changes, choke points for crowds trying to traverse or exit the facility and extremely inconsistent placement of concession stands.
In the new design, the spectator areas would take on a concourse feel similar to stick-and-ball sport stadiums. The track plans several themed bars and restaurants in 11 "neighborhoods" that would dot the mile-long frontstretch seating area. Each would have design elements that make the track visible from the open area as well as video screens.
In all, restrooms and concession stands would become more accessible (Chitwood said the new construction would include more than 40 escalators) and that every frontstretch seat would be replaced with a "new and more comfortable seating."
The track layout and surface remains unchanged. Michigan's Rosetti Architects has designed the initial concept and developed the renderings for the planned renovation.
Chitwood first announced the plans for a dramatic Daytona overhaul during the NASCAR media tour in January saying "when you think about the history of Daytona, you also have to look to the future."
"Make no doubt, this property has survived the test of time, over 50 years of great experiences and great racing," Chitwood said. "But for us we have to continue to look at the future and what do the next 50 years hold."
DIS, as part of a new master plan proposal submitted to the city of Daytona Beach and Volusia County officials last year, already has zoning rules approved for the new construction.
The project does not yet have a price tag, but is large enough that it could effect the annual calendar of racing events at DIS. Chitwood stressed Friday, however, that it wouldn't cause any impediments to the Daytona 500 remaining as NASCAR's first race of the season.