E.A. Sports Today

The Big One, only better

Talladega Superspeedway getting $50 million infield facelift to modernize, enhance total fan experience

Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch talks about the $50 million Infield Transformation Project that track will undertake later this year.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA — Talladega Superspeedway has aged gracefully over the last 50 years, but it’s about to get a facelift.

And it’s a big one — just like the Big One you always think about at Talladega, only better.

Track officials Thursday unveiled plans for a privately funded $50 million Infield Transformation Project intended to take the most competitive track on the NASCAR circuit to the next level of racing facilities.

Nothing will change with the track’s iconic 2.66-mile racing surface — especially not the start-finish line — but everything else involved in the fan experience will be enhanced.

“We have had nearly 50 years of incredible history in motorsports and have been a tourist destination for so many,” Talladega chairman Grant Lynch said. “The investment we are making shows a commitment today, tomorrow and beyond. Fans, both current and future, have a lot to look forward to in the next 50 years. There’s only one Talladega.”

The centerpiece of the project is a 35,000-square-foot open-air “Dega Dome” – the Garage Fan Zone Experience – that will allow fans to “immerse themselves in the sport like never before” by giving them up-close viewing of the top 22 teams entering Talladega race weekend as the crews work on their cars or go through inspection.

The area along the back wall of pit road will feature a 140,000-square-foot social and engagement midway, complete with Wi-Fi coverage, a 600-seat Paddock Club for corporate entertainment and other amenities to elevate the fan experience.

Lynch called the project “a significant day for the track, for the State of Alabama, NASCAR and sports in general.” Mike Helton, NASCAR vice chairman and former Talladega president, called it “incredible for all of NASCAR and all of motorsports.”

“It’s just the modernization of our sport, and I’m just glad to see it happening here at Talladega 50 years later,” said longtime team owner Richard Childress, who started his racing career in the first two races ever held at Talladega.

“Talladega is all about the party and this is just going to enhance the party,” added Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson and the 2018 Daytona 500 winner. “Talladega is a place that holds our sport together. It’s the glue of our sport because you know that people are going to be here every time we show up, no matter what. Talladega is one of those places that has aged well, but it’s time to update it and I think it’s great to see these updates going and our sport supporting our tracks.”

The first phase of the project — the 300 premium RV spaces inside the Alabama Gang Superstretch and 3,600-square foot Race Operations Center — is set to begin right after the checkered flag drops on October’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 race. The entire project is expected to be completed in time for the October 2019 race, completing the year-long celebration of the track’s 50th anniversary.

“It’s going to be brand new,” Lynch said. “When 2019 rolls around it’s going to be a brand new thing you’ve never seen at Talladega. This is going to pop, it’s going to be big and it’s going to be impressive to our fans.”

International Speedway Corp., the parent company of Talladega Superspeedway, previously completed a $400 million renovation of Daytona International Speedway and currently has projects underway at Phoenix’ ISM Raceway ($178 million) and Richmond Raceway ($30 million).

At $50 million, the Talladega project is more than 10 times the original cost of the track’s construction.

“I’m glad it’s here,” Lynch said. “It’s our turn. We’ve been fine with what we are and we’re a race fan’s track. We don’t have a lot of the flash with the big high suites and everything. We’ve got campgrounds galore. We’ve got the widest seat in the sport. We’ve got the big screen TVs that we put up for them twice a year. We pay $600,000 so you have a TV right in front of you right at the race track. It’s a pretty cool place.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who called the transformation project a $119 million investment, said attractions like the speedway are “essential to a healthy tourism industry” in the state. She said the track’s two race weekends in 2017 had a $435 million economic impact on the state.

Here are the highlights of the Talladega Transformation:

44 new enclosed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage stalls
Four 25-person suites with views into the MENCS garage
Existing MENCS garage becomes Xfinity Series garage
Walkways inside garages for fan viewing

Fan Area
35,000-square foot open-air club between the two MENCS garages with 41-foot video board, 740-square-foot bar area
Two new concession stands
Two new restrooms
140,000-square feet of open space, Victory Lane, Guest Services Center, Fan First Aid Facility, Wi-Fi coverage

Paddock Club
Seating for 600 consumers and corporate guests
Two levels, with hospitality on first level and stadium seating on second
19,000-square foot covered ground seating and lounge

Approximately 300 premium RV camp sites along Alabama Game Superstretch
3,600-square foot Race Operations Center for race control, TV, MRN, PA
Renovated Media Center with 230 work stations
6,000-square foot driver meeting room (5 times larger than existing room)
New two-lane vehicle tunnel under Turn 3 to accommodate RVs and team haulers. “I am so excited about that,” Lynch said. “That’s the best amenity to our infield we could have ever done.”

Here is an artist’s rendering of what the Talladega Infield Transformation Project will look like when completed.

Here’s a map of what the infield will look like after the Transformation Project is completed.

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