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 Tennesseeâ€™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 Volsâ€™ 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 Volsâ€™ 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 venueâ€™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 stadiumâ€™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,Â fans do not percieve either to be the eventÂ it used to be. And in the business of selling tickets, perception is everything.
Topics: Articles |