As I viewed weekend racing on television and noticed the increasingly chronic level of lack of bodies in attendance at race tracks an obvious reason why hit me. Most of the stands are not covered, are made of shiny aluminum and events tend to take place under hot sun. Even for rare night races humidity is still there, and tracks have a tendency to want to cram people as close together as possible.
In society today the notion of personal space, which is usually occupied by multi-tasking, self-absorbed folks who have difficult times paying attention to their surroundings and usually involving electronic communication devices, is cherished and valued.
The NASCAR race at Michigan was a shining example of a venue that has reduced their seating capacity by almost half but remains plagued with abundant aluminum. The problem is not the reduction of capacity, it is seats that remain continue to be subject to the elements and lack of meaningful personal space.
Instead of just tearing grandstands down a better long term approach may be:
- Erect roof structures that keep at least 50 to 75% of an individual stand shaded or protected from rain.
- Provide more open space both horizontally and vertically. Humankind has never been as physically large or more self-absorbed than they are today. For many going to a race track has become as unpleasurable as going to the airport to catch a flight. Once you run the security gamut you are crammed into seats too small and close together as whatever joy folks used to feel gets sucked away in a short amount of time.
- Take cues from modern baseball parks. Provide sponsored party decks. More group suites. Picnic areas with great views of the track. Covered open areas that cater to ADD-addled beings.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway already has a high number of covered stands, but extend to turns. Milwaukee used to have it right but not now.
In short, the notion of large swaths of uncovered stands is hopelessly dated. It is why things like having an oval race at Fontana at the end of August during the day is stupid. Here is hoping enough brains prevail across the entire business to enhance existing race tracks to accommodate a contemporary crowd.