Face-lift planned for Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daytona International Speedway is planning a face-lift and wants help from Florida to make it happen.
Track president Joie Chitwood outlined plans for a new state-of-the-art front grandstand on Friday on which DIS is willing to commit at least $250 million if the state legislature agrees to give the track tax breaks that other sports teams in Florida receive.
Chitwood said legislation for a public-private partnership is expected to be proposed next week asking for the tax breaks that already apply to the NFL, MLB and other major sports in Florida.
If it's approved, Chitwood hopes to begin renovations "as soon as possible'' to the 53-year-old structure that an independent study says provides a $1.6 billion yearly economic impact to the state.
Chitwood said the plan he takes to International Speedway Corporation for final approval would have to be adjusted if the tax break isn't provided.
"From my perspective, and looking at the 50 years of what we've done in this community and the state of Florida, I hope when legislature looks at this they say, 'This makes a lot of sense,''' Chitwood said.
Chitwood said there is no timetable for when the project would begin or be completed if approved because construction would have to be planned around events such as the Daytona 500 in February and the July Sprint Cup race.
The project calls for a complete overhaul of the frontstretch grandstands, from creating an iconic entrance to the facility that includes escalators to the stands, football-field-length "neighborhoods'' that include video screens, bars and themed restaurants, and modern seats that will provide more comfort.
Chitwood said the backstretch grandstands that haven't been opened for the July race the past few years due to a decrease in ticket sales are not a part of the plan. He said the seating capacity for the new expanded frontstretch has not been determined.
Chitwood said the "World Center of Auto Racing'' could become the "World Center of Entertainment and Sports'' if the plan as proposed is completed.
"Who knows, maybe there's a BCS Championship Game on our horizon,'' he said, referring to college football's title game.
Chitwood said the ultimate goal is to create a "new front door'' for a Daytona Beach community that he said hosts 8 million tourists a year.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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