Opinion: Five Changes Loudon Can Make To Improve Fan Experience
As a fan who has been on both sides of pit road (both as a fan and as media), I have seen my fair share of the track and all of it's amenities that it offers. The Lobster Lite Lounge, the souvenir haulers (soon to be replaced by the pop up stores), and the S2 lot that has everything to keep a fan entertained before and after the race. I have seen the Speed and Fox Sports Broadcasts from the TV announcers stage, Miss Sprint Cup fan zone where you can see the Sprint Cup Trophy and take your picture with one of these lovely ladies (Madison, Julianna or my favorite Kim), sponsor and local business tents to collect free giveaways, meet other race fans and have a central place to meet friends and family to take attendance before crossing back over into the steating areas.
There's only one problem with the way the track is setup. It's way too much walking. The amenities and concessions are so spread out you have to "Sprint" back to the gates to hand in your ticket before the race starts, or before the pre-race concert. I could be over at the end of the S2 lot, realize I'm hungry and want a snack and have to head all the way back to the Laconia Grandstands to get to the lemonade, hot dog and hamburger or ice cream carts/booths and then find a picnic table under the stands to get some shade, especially on a hot July day in New England. And then if I want a souvenir I have to go around to the back of the stands where the haulers are setup, find my driver, pick up souvenirs for my daughter who likes a different driver, and the hit the rest rooms before I sit down.
So above is an aerial shot of the race track. I have identified 5 areas of the track that need the greatest improvement to engage fans more, keep them interested and keep them coming back. I know New Hampshire is a short track at 1 mile, called "The Magic Mile", but the infield is huge and can be allocated a lot more wisely to maximize fan engagement and reduce the amount of time fans have to hoof it from one end of the track to another. Let's go over the 5 areas:
1) The Backstretch - this is a popular place for people who want to see the race but don't want to pay a lot of money. To get more fans in this area, build a 2 story concourse with technology upgrades like wifi, charging stations and an open area for BYOS (bring your own seats). Also have a small area for concessions and souvenirs.
2) The Grandstands - Remove some of the seating (like every 3rd or 4th row) and push the value seats up higher for better viewing of all the racing action. Continue to have family friendly and no smoking areas.
3) The Overtime Commitment Line. A perfect place to put the "good restart" line so that the drivers, once they know it's a good start and the next flag is the white, have to fight to get past eachother to get back to the start/finish line.
4) Grandstand Entrances: Construct a wall along the entire entrance area so there is a one way traffic flow in and out of the area. Also remove the fencing and replace with special "emergency only" exit doors.
5) The infield: Move all of the S2 lot activities to the infield (Miss Sprint Cup, Lottery Booth, Tweet Up area, Driver Autographs, etc) and move the parking on the infield to the S2 lot, with 1 smaller lot designated for employees and media.
Now I don't expect the track to shell out 400 million dollars worth of improvements like they did in Daytona, but with these 5 fixes and a little bit of reorganization of the track layout, fans will be happier that they can find their seats, explore the "Center Stage" of activies and go back to their seats with a sense of happiness - and feeling left in their legs.