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NASCAR HOF void of many sponsors
When customers enter the $200 million NASCAR Hall of Fame for the first time this week, they’ll find the sparkling showplace surprisingly free of sponsor clutter.

That’s not by design. The three-story, 150,000-square-foot facility, which opens Tuesday in downtown Charlotte, has finalized four sponsorships with Lowe’s, Mars (M&M’s), Food Lion and the NASCAR Performance Group.

NASCAR will be showcasing many of its aftermarket partners, including 3M, Goodyear, Mobil 1, O’Reilly Auto Parts and others. Those companies will be on display when the Hall of Fame opens, and their deals range from $200,000 to $700,000 annually and go from three to five years in length.

NASCAR receives a 10 percent cut on sponsorship sales and between 7.5 percent and 10 percent on other revenue from admissions, retail sales and tours.

Five other sponsorship deals are in the works and are expected to close soon, although the identity of the new sponsors has not been disclosed by the Hall and those companies are not yet on display.

The nine deals in total represent $4 million in sponsorship revenue, which will be used to pay back $20 million in loans from its banking partners in Charlotte, Bank of America and Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia), over the next 10 years. Interest will accrue over time. Overall construction costs are covered by an arrangement with the city that includes loans from the banks, hotel/motel taxes and private funds.

“It’s never been our objective to have X amount sold by the time we opened or a certain date,” said Winston Kelley, the Hall of Fame’s executive director. “We’ve never said that. This is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint.”

The facility’s inventory, which includes Heritage Speedway, High Octane Theater, Glory Road, the Great Hall and the iRacing simulator, sure to be one of the most visited attractions within the facility, has been on the market for more than two years.

The recession has hampered sales efforts, said Zak Brown, CEO of Just Marketing International, the Indianapolis-based sales agent for the Hall.

“The banks have told us ‘Don’t panic.’ They don’t want to lower prices and start selling sponsorships for nothing,” Brown said. “The economy is coming back and now that the Hall is opening, people will actually see what it is.”

Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe’s has the most prominent positioning in the Hall, with signage of its Kobalt Tools brand surrounding the video board that’s mounted over Glory Road.

The home improvement retailer also has significant coverage in the Race Week section with its marks on the transporter, a huge rolling tool box and the KidsZone on the second floor.

Food Lion, a North Carolina-based grocery store with 1,300 supermarkets in the Southeast, has its signage in Race Week on the second floor as well.

The M&M’s sponsorship is based on an exhibit dedicated to NASCAR’s most loyal fans and the candy’s most colorful fan contest.

Hall officials are standing by their projections of 800,000 visitors in its first year. Ticket prices range from $12.95 to $19.95. Scenedaily.com

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