Size no longer matters
Size no longer matters. The days of "build it in NASCAR and they will buy tickets" are over.
Tracks that host NASCAR events are shrinking. Daytona International Speedway is 12,000 seats smaller than it was a year ago for the Great American Race. Charlotte Motor Speedway is down about 25,000 seats over the past year.
Texas Motor Speedway: down by 19,000 seats. Phoenix: 20,000. Michigan: 12,500. Richmond International Raceway: 12,000.
Yes, the economy has played a major role. But you don't hear track promoters and presidents going all Wicked Witch of the West on us with screams of "I'm shrinking! I'm shrinking!"
You also don't hear them blaming the contraction on sagging ticket sales and suggesting the sky is falling, to quote a phrase that Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith borrowed from Chicken Little during this week's preseason media tour.
Most will tell you that NASCAR simply is going through what other sports already have. The average size of a Major League Baseball stadium is 41,915, down almost 10,000 from the average capacity of the former stadiums.
NFL owners, Dallas' Jerry Jones aside, are building smaller stadiums. Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers admitted not long after he opened his 73,778-seat Bank of America Stadium in 1996 that he should have built it about 10,000 seats smaller.
It's no different in the NBA. The relatively new arena in Charlotte, N.C., seats around 19,000, more than 5,000 fewer than the old coliseum.
Heck, even the University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium has shrunk by 4,000 with renovations.
"There was a period of time when you didn't build a Major League Baseball stadium unless they had 65,000 or 75,000 seats," Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. "If you look today, it's about 45,000. It's reflecting the market place that is constantly changing."
The market 20 years ago was booming for NASCAR. SMI chairman Bruton Smith couldn't add seats to CMS fast enough, expanding the facility to about 160,000 seats. He then built tracks at Texas and Las Vegas that exceeded 140,000.
"I think we grew too fast," Earnhardt Ganassi minority owner Felix Sabates said. "Some of these racetracks with 140,000, that's crazy. We had no business increasing those seats. And Bruton probably started that with this track right here [in Charlotte]."
He's right, but you can't blame Smith. The demand was there, so why not supply it? If he had his way, people would work harder and more expansion would take place.
Sabates begs to differ. He doesn't even like the idea that Bristol Motor Speedway seats 160,000, even though it is one of the few tracks that sold out last season.
"If I were Bruton, I would cut the top two rows off there," said Sabates, who also suggested that Indianapolis should be removed from the schedule even though it traditionally is one of the top two most-attended tracks. "If you can only get 100,000 people in there, it would be, 'Man, if my daddy dies I am going to inherit the ticket.' Now, who cares? You go down and buy a ticket.
"Too many seats." ESPN.com