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Reimagining an american icon

Excerpted from Street & Smith's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL - Special Advertising Section

The first hint at the rebirth of the iconic home of racing comes on the approach. Illuminated letters, each 12 to 13 feet high, spell out “Daytona International Speedway,”spreading 355 feet from end to end. Tourists invariably stop at the new overlook to snap a photo. Once they’ve arrived, fans find a Daytona that keeps the heart and soul of racing alive and well in the untouched iconic racetrack but that is now surrounded with modern, comfortable stadium seating featuring the best in amenities catering to fans’ expectations. Design-builder Barton Malow handed over the keys to the project Jan. 12. The first race to celebrate the new stadium was the 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona at the end of January. The stadium is ready for its big inauguration with the stock car portion of Speedweeks 2016, from Feb.13-21, and the DAYTONA 500 on Feb. 21.

The tent village has vanished now that all hospitality has been moved inside the stadium. The Midway, on the approach to the stadium, has been redeveloped into a park-like thoroughfare, a foreground with its own raceday experience for fans. The stadium now features five massive “injectors,” or entrances, for fans to enter. As fans enter the injectors, they no longer climb flight after flight of stairs to reach the best seats at the top. They ride one of 40 escalators or 17 elevators through the four new levels of the injectors to put them a short distance away from their seats, which are now wider, more comfortable and permanent. 

Once fans reach their seats, they’ll find that every seat in the stadium offers unparalleled sight lines of the track. Fans will find they no longer have to climb back down all those flights to reach food and beverages or rest rooms, navigating their way past steel beams and operational equipment. The newly rebuilt stadium now features three levels of concourses, broken into 11 football-field-sized spacious neighborhoods as gathering and socializing spaces, all featuring multiple options for concessions with tables and chairs for dining and dozens of video screens. The stadium has tripled the number of concession and merchandise stands and doubled the number of rest rooms. Stadium operations are now tucked away from the crowds. In all, the stadium now boasts 1-1/2 million more square feet of usable space thanbefore. Hospitality now features over 60 luxury suites with trackside views and several clubs scattered throughout, giving more options to both the general race fan and the corporate client alike.

DAYTONA Rising made the most of a $400 million budget to rebuild a nearly mile-long stadium, using neighborhoods to create areas of activity and break up, what could have been, a seemingly endless length of concourses. Daytona International Speedway is so long, in fact, that architects ROSSETTI had to account for the curvature of the Earth in the design. “We accomplished a lot with our budget,” said Matt Taylor, associate and design lead for ROSSETTI. “When we had to make budget decisions, we never sacrificed our main focus, which was to provide fans with a world-class experience. It’s about how to make people comfortable from street to seat.”

ROSSETTI chose perforated stainless steel as a skin for the exterior of the stadium. From a design perspective, the steel reflects the sky and serves as an integral way to visually ground the stadium, Taylor said. Stainless steel also happens to be a commodity with a lot of sources — in this case, mostly local — making it a costeffective means of enclosing the facility. The stadium required so much steel — 31 million pounds — that it used 1 percent of the total annual U.S. steel output to build.

Fans’ tickets direct them to enter the stadium through one of the five injectors, four of which are sponsored by Daytona International Speedway’s founding partners: Toyota, Florida Hospital, Chevrolet and Sunoco.  “The vertical transportation powers these injectors, giving them almost a machine-like presence, with each one circulating 20,000 fans upward to their seats,” said Taylor. “You’ve never seen so many smiles as we did the first time people realized they’d no longer have to climb those 30-foot levels.”

ROSSETTI took a layered approach to the design, conscious of giving fans opportunities for people watching. “It’s unique to Daytona. Fans can look up or down or out while they’re on the concourses and see what’s happening in every direction,” said Taylor. Fans are responding by filtering in early and staying later. The new design gives fans an array of food and beverage options in every neighborhood, each with their own unique designs. And just as importantly during a long day of racing, the new concourses give fans a place to take a break from the sun and rain. 

In the middle of the building is the Center injector, which leads fans into the “World Center of Racing” and the Trioval Club. “From that spot, there is no obstacle to the fan’s sight of the track — it’s breathtaking,” said Taylor. “That area dials up the
experience to give fans the best possible connection to racing. From that spot, you can see the flag stand and the start/finish line. It’s a great gathering spot for everyone.”

A big challenge for ROSSETTI was creating the best sight lines possible for every race fan. The design reduced the number of seats from 145,000 to 101,500, partially to be able to install wider, more comfortable seats, but to tear down the backstretch, where many fans did not have full view of the track. ROSSETTI also raised the bottom rows of seats to give lower-seated fans more visibility. ROSSETTI saved the support structure of the lower bowl and built the new facilities above it, giving a nod to keeping the heritage of the original structure alive. 

“It’s easy to get great sightlines for a small arena or football field,” said Taylor. “But at Daytona, it’s a challenge for every fan to have a great view of a 2-1/2-mile long track. There’s not a tool out there that does that for us so we, at ROSSETTI, created our own. We think our tools will become a benchmark for how best to address the issue. Seems simple — if a fan can see over two heads, he’s good. But that is avery complex, very mathematical challenge to figure out. The average seat now has 30 sight lines, compared with six at most stadiums and arenas. For the fan, it will be breathtaking to be able to see everything that happens for 2-1/2 miles.”