|Phoenix undergoing expensive upgrades|
Julie Loney has camped out at Phoenix International Raceway during NASCAR races for 16 years.
Year after year, the Goodyear resident and her husband have lined up with their camper to get a spot in the unreserved section of the campground, which operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
There, they meet up with friends from the area and from California and Utah, form a rectangle of RVs, and set up for the whole race week.
"It’s awesome. I have never been anywhere where there’s so many good people," said Loney, 60.
At each of the two NASCAR races held at the Avondale track each year, thousands of recreational vehicles form an RV city of some 25,000 racing enthusiasts for about a week.
Unlike other live sports-watching experiences, Loney said NASCAR allows families to attend, have fun, and — more importantly — afford it.
But starting in November, PIR is phasing out unreserved camping — which was a more affordable option — and making all campsites reserved sections, according to Scott Rovn, vice president of sales and communications at PIR.
Prices for reserved camping spots start at $175 for this fall's race. This past spring, Loney paid $75 for her unreserved camping spot.
"We all love NASCAR. But they have priced us out," Loney said. "Some of us take our kids and grandkids and have a fantastic race week. Now we'll have a fantastic time camping and watching the race on TV."
NASCAR track losing traditions?
PIR is undergoing a $178 million face-lift expected to modernize the Avondale sports venue and completely reimagine fan experiences.
The plans include new and upgraded grandstands, an infield where fans can get up close to the racers, their cars and teams, better seats and suites, redesigned entrances and new parking lots.
Loney and other longtime PIR patrons interviewed by The Arizona Republic worry the renovations will do away with tradition.
Rovn said the changes are to deliver "the best motor race experience that a fan can ask for."
Rovn said unreserved camping was phased out because of the "really high demand" for reserved camping.
"Fans responded to the quality experience that comes with knowing that they have a spot, working with their friends, knowing who’s going to go where and creating that whole experience. That's what our fans seem to want," he said.
So far, the roughly 5,000 reserved spots for the November race are almost sold out, he said. AZcentral.com