On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte, N.C., will celebrate its first birthday. A year ago, the venue captured national attention during its grand opening. This year’s celebration will focus on the local and regional community. Highlights include a visit from Metro School students, special one-day admission price of $5.11 and donations to the Red Cross for tornado victims.
“It is appropriate that we take a moment to show our appreciation for the community that has embraced us,” said Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “We have had challenges in this economy, the same challenges that many start-up businesses have. However, we also have many stories that should make Charlotteans and the NASCAR community very proud.”
As a special treat, various executives and board members will serve birthday cake to students from neighboring Metro School shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11 in the Great Hall. In addition, all customers that day will be treated to a discounted admission of $5.11 in honor of the landmark date, and $1 from every admission will go directly to the Red Cross to fund tornado relief efforts.
In addition to hundreds of celebrity appearances, cross promotions with dozens of area events and attractions and facility rentals as unique as proms and a nightclub backdrop for Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) week, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has two particularly notable accomplishments. In the first year, the attendance surpassed all but one sports hall of fame in North America, and the local tourism industry already has generated business in excess of $224 million.
“On behalf of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality & Tourism Alliance (HTA), which proudly was a leading organization in efforts to build the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, I am extremely delighted by the tremendous positive results of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on the hospitality industry during its first year of existence,” said Mohammad Jenatian, president, HTA. “As an industry, we initiated and proactively advocated for a 2% increase in Charlotte’s occupancy taxes to generate the necessary funding to build the Hall of Fame. In its first year of operation the NASCAR Hall of Fame has been vital in solidifying and retaining the Charlotte area’s and North Carolina’s status as a racing capital and enhancement of our Convention Center and our region as a destination.”
In just one year, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has delivered on the objective set forth by the tourism community. To date, 72 meetings or conventions from outside Charlotte booked the NASCAR Hall of Fame or Crown Ballroom through 2014. With more than 200,000 delegates combined, the direct spend in the area is $224 million, a full $30 million above the cost to build the venue.
“The NASCAR Hall of Fame has provided our region with a unique international attraction and has given our Convention Center a niche that no other city has,” said Jenatian. “The recent National Rifle Association (NRA) Convention with 72,000 attendees, as well as other conventions secured because of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, is exactly what the industry wanted in return for its investment – more events, more conventions, more hotel revenues.”
In addition to the corporate business, surveys indicate 82% of customers visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame are from out of town, and half say they came to Charlotte just to see the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Further supporting the investment by the tourism community, 67% of visitors stay overnight, and they spend on average one to two times the typical leisure traveler. It is too soon to have a new study commissioned to see the actual overall economic impact on the area, but University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC) Economist John Connaughton originally estimated the Hall would contribute $60 million in economic impact annually in the Charlotte region. This contributes to an already robust economic impact from the motorsports industry. A 2005 UNCC economic study on motorsports in North Carolina found the industry has a $5.9 billion impact on the state and also employs 27,000 people with an average salary of $71,000.
“The Hall has drastically raised the profile of this tremendous local industry (motorsports) that has a statewide economic impact of over $5 billion annually, and it has solidified the three major NASCAR races at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” said Jenatian. “Each of these races has an economic value of over $100 million annually, contributes tons of occupancy taxes, among others, and supports thousands of jobs.”
Customers have traveled from all 50 states and multiple countries to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and thousands have committed to annual memberships. Season pass holders include people from 44 states and five countries, a clear example of the national appeal of the venue.
In its first 12 months, the NASCAR Hall of Fame entertained more than 270,000 customers making it the second-most visited sports hall of fame in North America. In 2010, the National Baseball Hall of Fame led the way with 281,000 visitors, while the Pro Football Hall of Fame had 191,943 visitors.
“We fully acknowledge our initial attendance estimates turned out to be high, especially in this economy and for a start-up business,” said Kelley. “In retrospect, we needed to extensively research venues comparable to us, such as sports halls of fame in addition to the entertainment attractions. Overall, I’m pleased with the way our team has been able to react to the market conditions. We reigned in expenses quickly and will be able to cover our operating losses through the CRVA reserve fund, essentially the company’s savings account.
“We’ve been open long enough now to shift our focus away from projections and look at reality. When you compare our numbers to today’s marketplace and the other sports halls, we are making excellent progress. Charlotte should be proud to have the second-highest attended sports hall of fame in North America. We are just a few percent shy of baseball, a venue that has decades of history.”
NASCAR has an expansive fan base across America and internationally, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame was built to tell NASCAR’s story, both historic and current. According to NASCAR executives, the attraction is well on its way to an established brand of its own.
“NASCAR is thrilled to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” said Blake Davidson, vice president of licensing and consumer products for NASCAR. “We could not be more pleased with our partnership with the City of Charlotte and the facility itself. The NASCAR Hall of Fame has set the new standard for other halls and similar attractions to follow. We are confident that the NASCAR Hall of Fame will continue to serve as one of the most important attractions that Charlotte and the region have to offer, while also resonating as the ultimate destination for all NASCAR fans.”
Jenatian concurs: “As a multi-dimensional travel destination, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has been vital in the city’s journey to become a great place to visit and hold major conventions. We are extremely excited about the Hall of Fame’s role in growing our remarkable industry, as we know the best is yet to come.”