Perception is key right? For the last few years in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, attendance has been hovering between 30-35,000 patrons. Everyone is ripping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NASCAR though for keeping this “dying” race alive. Most are even wondering if a new date later in the year will actually help.
Well, why is everyone ripping Indy as well as NASCAR but praising Watkins Glen for their attendance this past weekend. On Sunday, Watkins Glen announced a third straight sellout for their grandstand seating. The capacity of those seats?
Granted, that figure could be plus or minus a few thousand as there’s no official number for grandstand capacity available to media. But, same could be said for Indy too. So, why is one track ripped and another one praised for similar attendance?
Great job to Watkins Glen too because that race is phenomenal and those fans are diehards. This isn’t a story about a negative against NASCAR or Watkins Glen in any standard. In fact, it’s a praise to them for doing such a great job of selling the seats that they have available. This is a world class facility that’s deserving of the honor and praise.
But, why rip Indy then?
It’s simple from an easy standpoint, perception of 32,000+ seats being filled to capacity is appealing on TV and in person, than 32,000 seats being taken up in a facility that holds upwards of 220,000+. Empty aluminum grandstands isn’t appealing to anyone. Filled grandstands, even if it’s capacity of that given track is far less than other venues, is attractive and desirable.
It’s why this spiral downwards isn’t as bad as most people think it is. Yes, attendance and ratings have slipped, but the biggest reason for attendance slipping is the tracks got greedy in the heydays and added more and more grandstand seating as a result of the madness. Venues would double their space available to put people, and at the time, it was a wise business move. The demand was for it, and the tracks netted more money on ticket sales for the addition of more seating. It was the old if you build it they will come.
But, what happens when they stop coming?
See, fads are often fun and attractive but also short lived. These race tracks should have been more frugal or conservative about the amount of seating they added. Why do you think so many tracks are taking away stands, as in stands plural. Daytona, New Hampshire, Dover, Michigan, among many others have taken away a bunch of seating.
Because a crowd of 80,000 looks a lot better in stands that hold 90-100,000 than they do with stands that hold over 150,000. The more metal baking in the heat, the less desirable the race becomes. It looks like a failure. In all reality though, the race isn’t a failure. In the 80s or 90s, the era we say as the “good ole days” an attendance like the ones we see today would be great crowds.
So, why are they deemed failures now?
Because of empty seats.
So, why not scale back on those grandstands, and make the house look packed again? People want what they can’t have. Why do you think the Bristol night race was such a hard ticket to get? There was a demand because people couldn’t buy tickets to see that race in person. That race was sold out for years upon years. Now that it’s not a packed house anymore, it’s not desirable anymore.
See my point?
If a track looks packed with limited seating available, people not in attendance now want to go.
Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen is more proof of that. Indy had similar attendance in their grandstands and gets chastised.
Speaking of Watkins Glen, the NBC Sports broadcast was nothing short of amazing. This is what TV needs to do moving forward. The turn announcers really separated this broadcast from the rest. Radio turn announcers get excited, animated and paint such a better picture of what’s going on than the booth does on TV. That’s a fact. Radio announcers just have a knack with words and paint an even more vivid picture for what I’m seeing on TV at that moment. I thought Bagman, Parker Kligerman and Jeff Burton were phenomenal and make me want more in the future.
This could work on ovals too in my opinion and I’d like to see a Radio like TV broadcast moving forward. This was a home run in many ways.