To fill gaps ISC plans to widen seats at tracks in 2013

International Speedway Corp. plans to increase the size of seats at several tracks in 2013 as it looks to continue to battle the economy and other factors contributing to lower ticket revenues.

ISC executives laid out that long-term plan during a conference call with financial analysts to discuss the company’s third-quarter earnings, which show an increase of 9.3 percent in overall profits but a decline of 12.4 percent in admissions revenue and 3.9 percent in overall revenue.

ISC controls 20 Cup events (18 points races, the Budweiser Shootout and the Daytona 500 qualifying races) at its tracks – Daytona, Talladega, Phoenix, Michigan, Kansas, Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington, Watkins Glen, Auto Club (Calif.) and Homestead.

For its first 14 Cup events this year, ISC has filled its grandstands to 84 percent of capacity, compared with 76 percent last year, and ISC President John Saunders said he expects to finish the year at about 84 percent capacity. The actual capacity of the ISC tracks has dropped 9 percent, though, as ISC has taken seats out at some tracks and widened seats at others.

The widening of more of its 18-inch seats to 22-inch seats will be among the $85-$100 million the company plans to spend in capital improvements in 2013. In 2011, ISC plans to spend $65-$75 million on capital improvements, and some of that was on repaving projects at Daytona, Phoenix and Michigan.

“You're going to see our efforts to continue widening seats and having more comfortable seating in our facilities," Saunders said. “The standard in our industry for many decades was an 18-inch seat. And in some cases, those seats didn't even have backs to them. And so we've got an effort underway across the company to widen seats upwards of 22 inches or more with backs, and so seating is a critical area."

Additional plans include increasing the number of rest rooms, ticket gates and tram services from the parking lots to the gates.

“Prior generations of fans didn't mind walking a mile or so to get to the gate of entry, and today's fans' expectations are changing," Saunders said. “A lot of these projects may not have project-specific returns, but our expectation is it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do for the long term for the company, which ultimately will drive future growth."

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