Think about the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Now, NASCAR officials are choosing a location for a NASCAR Hall of Fame. How could it be that the NASCAR Hall of Fame would be placed anywhere other than Charlotte, North Carolina? How can NASCAR even think of putting it anyplace else?
It seems only natural, given the history of the sport and the culture that has been built up around it, that Charlotte would have the inside track with its bid for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Rick Hendrick, Luther Cochrane, Felix Sebates, and Cathy Bessant are among the leaders of the campaign to bring the NASCAR Hall of Fame to Charlotte for those and other reasons.
This group has done an excellent job of amassing expertise in both the construction and the marketing/public relations of this project. Renowned architect I.M. Pei of Pei, Cobb & Freed Partners (Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; John F. Kennedy Library in Boston; expansion of The Louvre in Paris) has most recently been praised for its highly interactive work for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland,
a quality important to NASCAR and its fans. Interpublic Group (BofA; 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Chevrolet, Microsoft, Nike) is well known for its high-powered marketing campaigns for mega corporations. These firms should be able to arouse fan support from even the most latent with the excitement of the design and the creativity of the message.
Despite the natural heritage of NASCAR and these grand efforts, however, it might be what we don’t know that could cause NASCAR officials to select a site other than Charlotte:
• While most agree that NASCAR will continue to be one of the fastest-growing sports for some time, it is not as easy to speculate where the “center of the NASCAR universe” will be in terms of merchandising, viewing, accessibility, or other revenue-determining factors. We do know that NASCAR is expanding its network of racetracks to encompass more of the national audience. We do know that NASCAR is even testing its expandability into international markets like Mexico City and is looking to other sites in Central and South America and Europe. And we do know that NASCAR leadership has plans to reduce the number of races in the Carolinas and has made significant comments about relocating the Nextel All-Star event!
• We do not know what the selection committee wants for NASCAR. What will they expect in return for the Hall of Fame besides an investment of at least $100 million and the prospects for a long-term return on investment?
• Nor do we know how the sport of NASCAR itself will change. We do know that the sport has become highly technical and technological. We do know that NASCAR is working on a new prototype for new cars starting in 2006.
In anticipation of these unknowns, our region has made great strides investing in the future of NASCAR. Our resident drivers and their teams have created state-of-the-art facilities for NASCAR racing in Concord, Huntersville and Mooresville. UNC Charlotte has built a research program specifically around the technology of NASCAR racing. Our state is committing substantial dollars to maintain our base of racing teams and the surrounding industries. We have a world-class international airport that provides immediate access both nationally and internationally. And certainly, our community has also demonstrated its desire, ambition and commitment to support and maintain what is naturally part of this community’s heritage and culture.
We deserve to be awarded the NASCAR Hall of Fame for all of the right reasons. At the same time, we should expect some changes in the way things have been, including that the Nextel All-Star events may be taken and circulated to other tracks much like professional sports rotate their all-star events. We will have to wait and see how our efforts are received. Nevertheless, we can be proud of the best efforts we have extended.