The President of ISM Raceway updates the renovation highlights at his transforming venue, including its interactive garage area, victory lane access, premium amenities, and hangout spots.
Editor's Note: Bryan Sperber recently announced he will be amicably departing ISM Raceway in November when the $178 million track renovation is complete. Bryan, we wish you the best of luck as you pursue your next challenge.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
The social theme isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon for our industry, but that almost doesn’t matter because it’s new and exciting to your market, your venue, your specific fan base. Can you continue to talk about their reaction to being exposed to these new social opportunities and how those social spaces have made your venue better and more attractive for fans to buy tickets?
We’re hearing a lot during the ALSD Conference about the echo of this trend of ‘hangout spaces’ as one panelist described it. [Races, games, events] are social experiences for fans. They want to come and be a part of the event, but they also want to mix and mingle with their friends and make new friends. Trackside Bar & Grill, the ROLL-BAR at the Wheelhouse, and Dos Equis Curve certainly start to address that in our venue.
The area I’m most eager to see play out is the new INfield because we can accommodate about 10,000 guests. We’re going to have an incredibly large social area, a hangout space. The question in my mind is whether or not fans with race tickets in the grandstand will decide to spend their time in the INfield. If they do, how much time? It’s going be a little bit of a social experience experiment for us to see how this all plays out.
As long as the guests are having fun, it doesn't matter to me. I’m agnostic in terms of where they want to hang out, as long as they’re with us, and as long as they’re having fun.
“We’re hearing a lot during the ALSD Conference about the echo of this trend of ‘hangout spaces’… [Fans] want to come and be a part of the event, but they also want to mix and mingle with their friends and make new friends.” – Bryan Sperber, ISM Raceway
You gave us a great reminder of the timeline for this project. Can you remind us of the project budget?
$178 million. We’re getting close to being done, so we’re excited. It’s been a fun ride. It’s been mind-blowing to see all the new elements of this project literally coming up out of the ground and saying goodbye to some outdated assets, sometimes being knocked down in spectacular fashion with fireworks and so forth.
It really is a transformation. We’re seeing a brand-new facility, and it’s quite exciting. Even for somebody like me who has been around the sport for so long and seen so much, nothing can compare to it. It’s just been incredible. It’s been emotional at times. And it’ll all be done and open for the Can-Am 500 in November.
This isn’t just about racing. Instead you’re creating a multipurpose facility, which will probably help pay back some of that money recently spent. Can you tell us some of the events that you’re targeting or ones that have already taken place since new elements have come online?
If you look at where we’re located and the acreage that we have, you know we’re uniquely positioned in a market that’s very desirable for a lot of events, desirable for corporate, media partners, and so forth. We’re one of the few facilities in the greater Phoenix area that can accommodate overnight camping to the tune of tens of thousands of guests. That’s very unusual in our market.
The physical side of our venue really prevented us from being able to attract a lot of quality events because it was so reliant on temporary structures that when considering the cost side of them, we couldn't do much. Now we have this beautiful, sparkling, new venue with a lot of permanent facilities. It’s opened the door for us to have those kinds of conversations with potential partners to bring a variety of new events.
Sure, we’re looking at new motorsports events all the time, but we’re now hosting Tough Mudder, hosting high school proms. We’re actively out looking for cultural events, culinary events. We’re having discussions right now for multi-day music shows where, again, the camping becomes a key part, coupled with a brand-new, beautiful facility.
We can now finally put it all together and have these kinds of conversations. Our calendar is going to look very different in the coming years.
Now are you a chaperone for these proms?
[Laughing] I can't take that responsibility.
In closing, to plagiarize your term because it is perfect: “This is not a renovation. It’s a transformation”. We really appreciate you sharing your story and look forward to the transformation crossing the finish line.