In 2016 race fans will no longer have to worry about spilled beer and cooler ice dripping on their heads as they walk beneath the grandstands at Daytona International Speedway (page 48). Already under way, the Daytona Rising project will turn the frontstretch bleachers of the 2.5-mile tri-oval into racing's first stadium, complete with three concourse levels, hospitality areas and fan amenities unprecedented at racing venues.
The $400 million project will use 40 million pounds of steel across almost a mile, erecting a 146-foot-high structure that will house 101,500 wider, permanent seats, down from the 147,000 accommodated by the 1959-installed stands. The backstretch grandstand will be removed.
Designed by the Detroit-based architecture firm Rossetti, the stadium will feature a metal and glass skin, and each of the five gates—Daytona calls them injectors—will offer different concessions, video displays and race-day activities, making them mini-destinations in their own right.
Once fans reach the concourse level—35 feet above the entryway—14 elevators and more than 40 escalators will deliver them within 20 rows of their seats. That's right, no more hiking 70 feet up metal grandstands.
The concourses themselves transform the race-day experience. The 11 open areas that Daytona calls "social neighborhoods" will have video screens to encourage fan congregation, as well as Wi-Fi zones, dining options, bars and shops. Most important: There will be twice as many restrooms and three times as many concession stands.
"We need to live up to the amenity side of what fans expect," says Joie Chitwood, Speedway president. "This is NASCAR's biggest event. We can only Band-Aid so many things."
Some steel is already in place on the west end and a few new seats will be ready by 2015. The entire project wraps in January '16, meaning Daytona regulars will have a month to ogle the new digs before the focus returns to the action on the track.
THEY SAID IT
"[We are] a little horse that still needs milk and to learn how to jump."
José Mourinho, Chelsea FC manager, downplaying his English soccer team's title chances earlier this month.
"We may be the Chihuahuas that run in between the horses' legs.... We're just about improving with each match."
Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool FC manager, suggesting last week that his team is even less of a title favorite.
"Brendan's Chihuahua doesn't [play as many games as Chelsea]. During the week it sleeps, eats and trains a little bit.... His Chihuahua is a privileged one."
Mourinho, arguing that the Blues—who will play more midweek European games this spring—are worse off.
COURTESY DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
SANG TAN/AP (MOURINHO)
MICHAEL REGAN/GETTY IMAGES (RODGERS)