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Overhauling the Fan Experience at ISM Raceway

Nestled in the Sierra Estrella Mountains outside Phoenix lies ISM Raceway, a hotbed for racing enthusiasts. Over the past 50 years, there have been several additions to this famous raceway, resulting in a unique but slightly askew venue. When ISM first approached ROSSETTI in 2009, it was for design solutions that would transform it into a world-class raceway.

A Contiguous, Unified Experience

In order to appeal to today's NASCAR fans, the fan experience needed to be upgraded in many ways. Of the four grandstands that existed, three were identified for demolition. These grandstands were positioned directly in the sun path, making sitting through an entire race under the Arizona sun too hot for spectators. Additionally, the walk from parking to seats were much longer than they needed to be due to the disproportioned entrances around the stands. 

After the three stands were demolished, it allowed the remaining Bobby Allison section to be extended – unifying the concourse. This led to a better sense of community, centered on fan experience amenities and 23,000 additional seats. Perhaps most importantly, the new configuration allowed up to 75% of seats to be in the shade.

This allowed ROSSETTI’s designers to make several big moves with the in-bowl real estate, such as the start-finish line being relocated to better suit the new seating arrangements and take advantage of the famous dogleg, which is a straight portion between old turn 2 and 3. This is one of the most exciting turns in motorsports. All program from the front stretch such as race operations, flag stand, lighting, and seating were relocated. Also, the midway was re-planned to make a shorter walk from the parking lot, and the main entries were redesigned to be proportionally distanced from each other. The last piece of the puzzle was Phoenix-based co-architect DLR Group working alongside ROSSETTI to redesign the infield.

Luxury Suites + Grand Canyons

Essential to any design, the traditional form and function equation was a critical foundation for this redesign. Inside and out, the ROSSETTI team successfully crafted a great fan experience at ISM.

The Curve Club, which can hold 300 guests, is the standout amenity. This high-end enclosure sets the bar for luxury in motorsports venues. Perched six stories above the track, this club’s interior was aesthetically overhauled with a desert-inspired palette, complete with a 200-foot long panoramic view of the entire track with the Estrella Mountains nestled in the distance.

Similar to Daytona International Speedway’s fuel injectors, the two canyons at ISM are the defining feature of the exterior. Programmatically, they are the main entries to the grandstand; economically, they are the primary sponsorship opportunity. The canyon walls become backdrops for the brand and create areas to immerse guests into the brand and the track.

For an industry predicted to grow to $6.5 billion within the next four years (according to Biz Journals) these elements are an economic foundation for the raceway.

By reimagining holistic solutions with updated grandstand positioning, new canyons, and a reshuffled midway, fans who will be attending the TicketGuardian 500 on March 11 will be able to experience the race in a totally new way.