The Daytona International Speedway where more than 100,000 fans will visit over the next few weeks probably will be quite a different place in the years ahead.
Although no formal plan has been approved by International Speedway Corp. officials, track management has big ideas for the long-range future of stock car racing’s most famous track, home to the Feb. 24 Daytona 500.
Conceptual drawings of the potential changes show a revamped frontstretch, with new suite and press box areas, improved seating and concourses and dramatic entrance areas that would significantly change the look of the track from adjacent International Speedway Boulevard.
The master plan is short on specifics and is being massaged by track personnel. Track president Joie Chitwood said he hopes to have a redevelopment proposal ready to present to ISC officials late this year. If approved, work on the project could begin in 2014.
“We started over a year ago thinking where we could go with it,” Chitwood said. “We had to start with getting approval from the city and county officials, and now we’ve got a first chance to unveil some of the creative vision we’ve seen taking hold.
“The new look has a very modern feel. When you look at other stadiums being built in the United States, that’s what you see.
“I hope later in 2013 we can talk about ‘when’ instead of ‘if’. But we’re excited about the path we’re going down because of what Daytona has meant to the sport’s history and heritage. We had to take a look at what the next 50 years hold.”
DIS opened in 1959 and has been one of auto racing’s most popular tracks for more than a half-century.
A focus in the redevelopment will be “creating a better experience for fans,” Chitwood said. “We’re looking at facility additions and more opportunities in terms of fan amenities. We hope to have more specifics soon. We wanted to get started with sort of the grand vision.”
Since the proposed project would involve much of the track’s grandstand areas along the long frontstretch, it could not be completed between race dates, Chitwood said. “It probably would stretch over multiple seasons, and we’ll have to figure out how we operate the venue while it’s going on.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.