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Wider seats a way for NASCAR and tracks to disguise smaller crowds

By admin | January 18, 2010

By Richard Allen

Have you noticed that during this week’s Sprint Media tour some of NASCAR’s tracks have begun to announce they will be redoing their grandstands to offer wider seats and aisles as well as built in cup holders and other amenities?

Tracks such as the Talladega SuperSpeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway are saying that they are listening to their fans and trying to make their experience more enjoyable. Well, that may be. However, the thing those and other tracks have been listening to most is the silence of no telephones ringing with calls of customers wishing to buy tickets. NASCAR has heard that silence as well.

The average size of most Americans is heading in an unhealthy direction. However, there may well be another motive for this sudden concern for fan comfort.

While I’m sure every track on the NASCAR circuit does indeed want their fans to have an enjoyable experience, they have only now that they are not selling out every event decided to become ‘proactive’. That, of course, is the true definition of reactive.

Another noticeable benefit for the tracks and NASCAR will be that the wider seats will spread people out more and not make the grandstands look so empty in those overhead television shots. Do not think for a second that this is not one of the reasons for these changes.

Here in east Tennessee fans of the Volunteers are used to being crammed into small spaces. Neyland Stadium in Knoxville is said to seat just over 100,000. It is often joked that if 10,000 of those people were removed from the stadium it would not be noticeable to a television audience because the remaining people would then be able to spread out and cover any holes that might be created by the vacancies.

Unfortunately for NASCAR’s tracks, there have been so many vacancies in recent years that the empty spots are not easily covered. By widening the seats and aisles, the tracks have come up with an artificial way of hiding empty seats…I mean providing more creature comforts for the fans.

I have maintained that if NASCAR will actually listen to what many are trying to tell them before they lose their entire fan base, those fans who come out on the other side of this current debacle will be better off for having hung in there. Wider seats is just one more example of that. Now, all that is left is for NASCAR to take many more steps toward rectifying the problems they have created for themselves.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Hall of Fame. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

6 Responses to “Wider seats a way for NASCAR and tracks to disguise smaller crowds”

  1. Gina Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    More smoke and mirrors from the people who want us to pay not attention to the “man behind the curtain”.

    Improve the racing and quit building cookie cutter race tracks and the fans would be excited to watch again.

  2. Tex Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I agree with Gina !

  3. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Gina speaks wisdom. I need to see much go back “the other way” before I too am convinced. They only now started “listening to fans” after the monetary losses became too large to ignore. They still need to be taught that they have a ways to go before I fork out over a grand and then some a year for tickets/vacations/souveneirs.

  4. Andrew from TN Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    You may be right about the alterior motive of disguising smaller crowds. But, as someone who is big (6′ 4″) even if I wasn’t fat, I WELCOME the wider seats.

  5. Sherry Says:
    January 20th, 2010 at 8:36 am

    I agree with Gina about the cookie cutter tracks. They need to look at the dates/annual weather and give the good tracks like Martinsville and reopen Rockinham, a good date where they could have large crowds.

  6. Gene Says:
    January 20th, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I don’t know if the tracks would be spending the money to widen seats, which will decrease total capacity, if they didn’t see dollar signs down the road.

    I had season tix at Bristol for 10 years. I could barely make it through a race, wedged in their seats with my knees jammed under my chin.

    Next to traffic, and more restrooms, bigger seats were probably near the top on fan surveys at every track.