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Bristol- Vols ticket package says much about the condition of both

By admin | July 28, 2011

By Richard Allen


Just a few short years ago all officials at the Bristol Motor Speedway and the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium had to do in order to the fill the seats on the day of an event was to open the gates. With relatively little advertising a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol and a Vols’ college football game were guaranteed sellouts.

As a matter of fact, both BMS and UT had waiting lists of fans clamoring for the next available tickets. Now, that is far from the case.

Just recently, the UT Athletic Department and BMS announced a special ticket package that will tie the two entities together for upcoming activities. According to the advertised plan, for the price of $110 fans can get a ticket to both the Irwin Tools Night Race to be held on August 27th and a ticket to the Vols’ opening home game on September 3rd against the University of Montana.

The price for Bristol Sprint Cup tickets ranges from $90- $137 while a single pass for the UT-Montana game sells for $40.

While the current economic troubles our country is facing has played a role in the sudden need for such creative promotions, the current state of each program has likely been an even larger factor.

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s the biggest problem the Bristol Motor Speedway faced was where to put the next section of seats that were to be added in order to fill the seemingly relentless demand. However, over the last few years that has changed drastically. The televised shots of barely half filled grandstands at the track during the Sprint Cup race held there during the spring of this year clearly demonstrated that no new seats would be needed and that there is no waiting list now.

Between the venue’s two races in 2007 officials from Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the owners of BMS, decided to resurface the speedway. In the process, the banking was lowered from its previous 36 degrees to a progressive steepness that ranges from 24-30 degrees. Also, bumps were smoothed away in the resurfacing process.

In turn, that took away from some of the rough and tumble action so often seen at the track in previous years as it is no longer necessary for drivers to force their way around each other.

While speedway officials offer a number of reasons for the changes, it has become clear that fans are not as drawn to the track as was once the case. Steadily since 2008 to the present, the number of empty seats has been more and more evident with each passing race.

At the same time, NASCAR in general has taken a hit in popularity. Grandstands all across the country are showing vast numbers of empty spaces while television ratings have taken a sharp downward turn since the high point of the early to mid 2000s. Fans have rebelled against the Chase for the Championship playoff system and the standardized Car of Tomorrow as well as a number of other recently added format changes.

All of these factors have combined to require ticket sellers at Bristol Motor Speedway to seek avenues that would have seemed needless just a few short years ago.

The University of Tennessee athletic program, and its football program in particular, has seen as much or more upheaval as has the Bristol track and NASCAR. Controversial head coaching changes, rules violations, the departure of an athletic director, and most importantly, lackluster performance on the field have created a lessening demand for tickets that were once highly prized and passed from generation to generation.

Demand was so high for these valued possessions that UT officials were once able to ask for and receive significant donations just for the right to purchase seats.

Now in Knoxville, just as in Bristol, the demand has deteriorated greatly. However, unlike Bristol, there is the possibility for fans from other teams to absorb some of the unclaimed seats which helps to negate the stadium’s potential emptiness. But still, ticket sales are not as easy as they used to be.

Times have indeed changed in east Tennessee. The Bristol Motor Speedway and the University of Tennessee have had to work much harder than was once the case to sell something that used to be considered unattainable by many throughout this area. Officials may make whatever claims they want, but clearlay, fans do not percieve either to be the event it used to be. And in the business of selling tickets, perception is everything.

Topics: Articles |

7 Responses to “Bristol- Vols ticket package says much about the condition of both”

  1. Joe W. Says:
    July 29th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Sadly it isn’t just preception. The Bristol race is not as action packed but the reason I no longer go is 2 fold. First the price is out of hand. They need to roll back prices to sell it out. I would bet the interest would be a lot higher for a $50.00 ticket than for a $150.00 one. Also for me, and this is just me, Kyle Busch winning is a HUGE turn off. I can’t stand the punk or the make he drives. I have no interest in seeing a toyota win any race EVER. As far as UT is concerned the tean has not been very good for several years and the one year experiment with the “snake oil salesman” Lame Kiffen has done a lot to ruin the reputation of the school. It’s sad but true. Neither event has the luster it once did. And I know because I live in East Tennessee

  2. SB Says:
    July 29th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I thought racding at Bristol started going ‘down hill’ once the stupid chase was invented. With the night race so close to the not-a-playoff, drivers in the top 10 played it safe, and those not in the top 10 got out of the way, not wanting to ‘interfere’ with a top 10 team. The repaving just put the final nail in the coffin. When I found myself struggling to stay awake for the final 100 laps at the night race 3 years ago, I got worried. For the next year, I sold my tickets to both races. This year, I didn’t renew my season tickets. Bristol has become like watching MIS with more traffic….boring. Hard to imagine that would ever happen to Bristol.

  3. JT Says:
    July 29th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Actually, that Vols v. Montana Game-Bristol Night Race ticket package sounds mighty appealing. If I lived in East Tennessee, I’d be buying into that offer. The Bristol Night Race is still an major spectacle and going to any SEC home game is an absolute blast.

    Too bad the Frances won’t offer a similar deal for one of the Firecracker 400 and one of the early-season Gator games against a “cupcake”. I’d buy those tickets!

  4. KS Says:
    July 29th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Joe W.- If you have no interest in seeing a Toyota win because they are made overseas, I recommend you do some homework. The vast majority of them are actually assembled right here in the USA. I have been hearing this more and more and decided to check it out myself. Look at this link to see where all of these manufacturers actually have their jobs:
    And if you don’t go because you don’t want to see a certain skilled driver win, are you really a fan of the sport itself?
    I agree prices should come down if NASCAR expects people to come to the races. It’s simple math, really. Selling more of the cheaper tickets is better than fewer expensive tickets, both financially and for the sport.

  5. Steve S Says:
    July 29th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Not only is the racing not as good and the ticket prices are out of sight but the locals and hotels jumped on the band wagon and going to an event is to expensive and just not worth it any more. I find supporting my friend on his late model at the local track and golfing much better. Sure hope everything works out for king brian and the new nascar.

  6. Jeff Says:
    July 29th, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Going to my 1st ever Bristol race in just under a month and can’t wait. I live in SoCal and didn’t want this to be my 1st time since 2001, that I’d gone to 1 race or less. Of course with Cali now having only 1 race, I needed to find at least 1 more race to attend and the bucket list Night Bristol race was the best option.

  7. Tommy Says:
    August 2nd, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    In these times, you have to get creative. Both UT and BMS have a lot seats to fill and those early season OOC games are not very attractive to many fans. I give the folks at SMI and UT credit for working together to put an attractive package for sale.

    Your traditionally upper lever SEC teams that have great fan support, like UT, UF, Bama, UGA, Aubie, LSU, have required large donations for the right to buy tickets. Those early season games give people like me (who can’t afford to cough up 20 grand a year to go to 6 games) a chance to see a game in person.

    While I understand your point (decreases in attendence at UT and BMS), I don’t think their reaction is a bad thing. Marketing departments are paid to be creative and do things like this.