ISC approves $178 million renovation plan for Phoenix International Raceway

Fresh off the success of last year’s $400 million extreme makeover of Daytona International Speedway, International Speedway Corp. is wisely turning its attention west to Phoenix International Raceway

On Wednesday, ISC’s board of directors approved a $178 million renovation plan for PIR as part of a $500 million capital investment plan in the company’s 13 facilities.

Upgrading PIR is a great strategic decision by ISC for several reasons. First and foremost, Phoenix is and always has been a great racing town, populated by fans that love motorsports of all kinds.

At one point, Phoenix was the only city in the world to annually host NASCAR, Formula One, Champ Car, NHRA and USAC races. Fans in the Valley of the Sun are passionate and knowledgeable about auto racing and classic cars, too.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that Phoenix is the only track out west that hosts two NASCAR races each year.

Making it a crown jewel gives ISC two state-of-the-art facilities in opposite ends of the country. That just makes good sense.

Secondly, to be honest, PIR needs to be upgraded. The track was built in 1964 and although it has received some improvements over the years, it will benefit greatly from getting the full treatment.

And it doesn’t hurt that Phoenix is one of the largest metro areas where ISC owns a track. Given that so much of NASCAR revolves around business-to-business relationships with sponsors, Phoenix is an ideal place to bring clients, investors and partners.

You can see great racing at places like Martinsville or Talladega, but Phoenix is full of five-star resorts, fabulous restaurants and interesting nightlife that smaller market tracks simply don’t have. It’s a growing, vibrant community and having a thoroughly up-to-date race track there is a winning move.

In a statement, ISC said the work is expected to begin early next year and be completed in late 2018.

“Phoenix Raceway provides a one-of-a-kind setting for some of the most exciting and thrilling races that the sport has to offer,” said ISC Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy in a statement released by ISC. “This project will further enhance that experience and ensure that the venue continues to be a treasured destination for race fans.”

The most striking design change in the initial plans is that the track apparently will remove the grandstands along the front straightaway and replace them with RV parking.

“The redevelopment is expected to focus on new and upgraded seating areas, vertical transportation options, new concourses, enhanced hospitality offerings and an intimate infield experience with greater accessibility to pre-race activities,” ISC said in a release. “In addition to fan and spectator areas, PIR is exploring improvements for competitors and industry personnel, particularly key structures located throughout the infield.”

PIR was built in 1964 and has hosted NASCAR races since the late Alan Kulwicki won the inaugural race there in 1988. Since 2005, PIR has had two NASCAR Premier Series races on the schedule annually, making it the only West Coast track with more than one race.

“We are energized about the changes that we are bringing to Phoenix Raceway and we think the fans will be too,” said Phoenix Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber. “The race track itself will remain unchanged as one of the most exciting circuits in motorsports, but we will modernize much of the venue and provide our fans with a high-quality, leading-edge experience.”

Additional details on the project are expected to be announced in January.