Year-Old Nascar Museum Wants a Restart

The $200 million Nascar Hall of Fame, a four-level museum filled with exhibits, displays and simulators that approximate real stock-car racing, opened last May in Charlotte, N.C., with no lack of fanfare. Richard Petty and Junior Johnson, two of the first inductees, even rumbled up to the opening ceremonies in replicas of their old cars.

“We needed a unique destination attraction here that would set Charlotte apart," Tim Newman, the chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which operates the museum, said recently. “We still had a lot of people who didn’t think of Charlotte as a destination."

Even though Charlotte has been the de facto capital of stock-car racing since Bill France founded Nascar in 1947, the 150,000-square-foot museum with the gleaming round steel facade, built by the city on Martin Luther King Boulevard, has proved to be a harder sell than it was supposed to be.

A research company told Mr. Newman and other civic officials that the hall could draw 800,000 visitors in its first year, even though the building opened during an economic downturn that has reduced attendance at Nascar races.

The projections turned out to be so far off — fewer than 200,000 had visited by the end of December — that officials found themselves fielding questions about the hall’s disappointing first year, even though almost everything had gone smoothly.

“It was an easy number to run with, and I don’t think it was scrutinized," Max Muhleman, who runs a national sports marketing company in Charlotte, said of the 800,000 figure. More…

[Editor's Note: The significance of this article is that it appeared in the New York Times in the Art & Design Section for the "Museums Special Section"]

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