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With the Daytona 500 on the horizon, Jim Renne discusses what fans will be experiencing at this year's event on the Fields of Green blog.

Jim Renne’s broad spectrum of experience, obtained over two decades of work, encompasses design solutions for every type of sport including soccer, tennis, NASCAR, basketball, hockey and football.  Jim’s NASCAR experience includes developing fan experience design solutions for Michigan International Speedway with the Pit Road Suites, and concessions concepts for Chicagoland Speedway. 

Race fans at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January got a sneak peek into the new DAYTONA Rising redevelopment project.  The west end of the frontstretch grandstands, containing 40,000 new seats, wider concourses and two injector entrances officially opened  at Daytona International Speedway, while construction continues on the reminder of the facility.  The project will be complete in time for next year’s 54th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 58th annual DAYTONA 500.

To better appreciate the scale of the project, imagine taking the University of Michigan’s 100,000-seat Big House, cutting it in half, and then stretching it out over 2/3 of a mile in length. Another way to look at it: DAYTONA Rising is the equivalent of three Empire State Buildings laid end-to-end.

However, in today’s competitive environment for the sports entertainment dollar, International Speedway Corporation, the owners of Daytona International Speedway, hired sports architect ROSSETTI to reimagine the fan experience from top to bottom.  The challenge for ROSSETTI was to design a modern sports facility on par with new stick and ball venues, while making it special to race fans and to the iconic history of the Speedway.

Fan experience has become a large bucket that encompasses everything from the basics, such as adequate toilet counts and concessions with indigenous food selection, to the trendy headline-grabbers. Consider that most new NFL stadiums are 75,000 seats but cost well in excess of $1 billion. The DAYTONA Rising scale is a bigger scope at 101,500 seats and less than half the budget at $400 million.

Rather than spreading the budget thin over the 2/3 mile length, the design team chose to consolidate the fan and sponsor experience into five fan injectors and associated neighborhoods. The injectors are large-scale entry portals into the stadium anchored by civic-inspired plazas drawing people from the edge of International Speedway Boulevard.  Layers of sponsor banners are noticeably missing from the metal exterior cladding in favor of large-scale consolidated branding opportunities at the injectors. This offers founding partners, such as Toyota and Florida Hospital, the opportunity to “own” the exterior and interior of an injector and associated neighborhoods, creating an immersive branded experience for their fans.

Use of automotive terminology began at the earliest concept phase of the architectural design as a visual interpretation of NASCAR racing itself.  The injector, referring to the fuel delivery system in engines, is a perfect metaphor. As fans stream into the stadium through the injectors and are transported up a series of escalators and elevators, designers saw them as driving the Daytona International Speedway experience.  The terminology stayed consistent over the four-year design phase to describe the entry and circulation concept, which is unique to racing.

Upon reaching their seating concourse, fans will find themselves traveling through neighborhoods, which congregate fan amenities and provide social areas away from the track.  The 11 neighborhoods are each the size of a football field and contain a variety of food and beverage options, uniquely branded, offering a diversity of experience.

Improving the Corporate Partnership Value Proposition
More than any other sport, racing depends on corporate sponsorship. The five injectors and neighborhoods not only provide fans with rich immersive experiences away from their seats, but offer corporate partners a totally new value proposition. It offers a new way to immerse and touch potential customers through large-scale brand immersion.

Previously, most hospitality was staged in a temporary tent outside of the grandstand.  Corporate fans had a long trek to their seats in order to watch any racing. The redevelopment moved hospitality out of the parking lot into the heart of the stadium. Located on the third level above the main grandstand, the dedicated hospitality area features 60 suite and club options with trackside views.  The suites are flexible, allowing walls to move and reconfigure for groups ranging from 50-500. This can be done day-to-day over the course of the event weekend.

Like every sport, NASCAR has grappled with dramatically changing fan expectations for sports entertainment.  Unhappy fans vote with their wallets and feet. DAYTONA Rising is taking a bold step to reconnect with fans and sponsors and introduce a new approach for the sport.

ROSSETTI is a global architectural design and planning firm with a focus on sports and entertainment. Established in 1969, ROSSETTI’s work includes architecture and interior design for showcase properties around the world.  The firm’s portfolio also includes The Palace of Auburn Hills, Ford Field NFL Stadium, the USTA National Tennis Center, Red Bull Arena, StubHub Center and sports facilities at many universities.

Originally posted on Fields of Green