As the need to mature the fan experience continues to take center stage, Phoenix International Raceway is ensuring a head start courtesy of a $178 million overhaul at the Avondale racetrack, serving up changes that will include shifting the start/finish line to the front of the grandstands, along with a new infield Fan Zone, better seating, access and more. With work expected to be completed in November 2018, Cynopsis Sports spoke with racetrack President Bryan Sperber about the investment and what venues need to consider for the modern consumer.
Sperber on approaching a modern renovation: There were a couple of things at play here. The good news for us is that the racing surface had been recently repaved and reconfigured so the actual on-track offering is fantastic and the track itself is in excellent shape. So really the consideration came down to how we upgrade this venue to meet the needs of all of our constituencies, and that includes consumers, sponsors, media and the industry. In the case of our raceway, it was clearly a beloved venue as the teams and the fans love coming here but candidly, the venue had grown a little long in the tooth and it was time for us to meet the expectations of the modern sports fan.
On changes: The first thing we needed to do was to upgrade the venue to modern expectations of creature comforts and that starts vertically with nine new elevators, four new escalators, and so the key is how quickly and conveniently we can get our fans migrated from the midway and into their seats. We started with that as our baseline and built up from there. We then wanted to take it a step further and offer something to the race fan that they can’t get at any other venue and for us that was wifi. I believe we are going to be the first racing motorsports venue to have wifi throughout the entire facility. That also unlocks the opportunity for us to really enhance the fan’s experience through on-site technology and we are well down the road with a number of partners on that ranging from gaming to video display that will be activate using this capability.
On new opportunities for sponsors: I think that part of it is how we merchandise the brand’s involvement with our venue so we paid attention to what we called canyons, which are these two big, grand entrances which are incredible candidates for brand integration and an opportunity for the brands to call out that they are involved with the venue. In addition, the wifi will also allow the companies to activate in new ways that other racetracks are unable to provide. The midway will also be much more programmed and serve up an opportunity for brands to deliver an interactive experience.
On goals: There are a couple of things we are definitely not changing. This is one of the most picturesque settings for auto racing with our cacti and mountains so this has always been a terrific environment and I think that fans will walk away believing that the physical facility matches the beauty from the natural surroundings, which enhances the quality of the racing.