MIS takes the lead in responding to its fans


Courtesy of NASCAR.com

You've seen the headlines. A perfect storm has been building in our economy and no industry is safe -- especially sporting events, where discretionary spending by ticketholders has been cut back by even the most enthusiastic of fans.

And yes, NASCAR fans are cutting, back, too, and have had to make some tough choices these days.

Unfortunately, this is not new at Michigan International Speedway as we have seen our share of storm clouds over the past three years. It didn't take a jobless report to tell us what we already knew: We had to do something to make our sport and our venue reasonably priced, while also investing in improvements for our fans.

I, like most of us at MIS, grew up a race fan. So it is with sincere belief that the fans make our sport. Embracing the fans and listening to the fans is not a burden or an inconvenience; it's what we do. Reaching out to fans is natural and it's easy.

Through countless surveys with fans, to camping with fans, sitting in the grandstands with fans and riding the trams with fans on race weekends, and even to the hundreds of e-mails to askthepresident@mispeedway.com, we took your comments and ideas to heart. We have been able to use your ideas and suggestions to drive our business plans for the future of MIS.

This started with improving our traffic. With great help and cooperation from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the State Police and local townships, we have made significant progress in making traffic better for our fans and we'll continue to work on making traffic better for our fans. If you have noticed the improvements getting into and out of the speedway, please tell your friends.

Next, we made improvements for the fans, by the fans! We took your "wish list" and invested nearly $30 million during the past three years on upgrades -- and we are not done yet!

We have replaced old grandstands with larger, wider seats with seatbacks and more legroom, and blanketed the entire facility with directional signage to help our guests find their way around the 1,400-acre speedway.

We have installed a new, state-of-the-art sound system and built an LED scoreboard to make the races more informative, fun and interactive.

We have installed electric in some of our 9,000 campsites and have built a permanent shower and restroom facility in one of our campgrounds.

The improvements did not stop with big projects. We've built trails, paved tram roads, added free concerts and much more.

We also have strived to improve the "little" things, including our guest services. A Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Advisory Network have been established to gain even more insight and input from our fans. We send out newsletters, e-mails, and podcasts to our fans. Special conference calls will be conducted for our first-time guests to learn more about the race weekend experience. We have engaged some of the popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word to our fans. Track ambassadors can be found in all of our campgrounds. In the coming weeks, we also will be rolling out a Fan Appreciation program.

And of course, we have recognized the need to make attending the races more affordable for our fans. Last fall, we lowered ticket prices in 25 percent of our reserved seats and established two general admission grandstands for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events. Tickets in those GA grandstands are $40, and we also allow children 12 and under free in those grandstands when accompanied by an adult.

In addition, we are working with our concessions company, Americrown, to come up with value meals to help our fans. We will continue to allow our fans to bring in their own food and beverages and we will continue our long-standing tradition of free


Though we don't control private businesses, we have been reaching out to our local Chambers of Commerce and area hotel owners to look at affordable pricing options for our NASCAR events. We feel strongly that race fans shouldn't be gouged by businesses.

We can control this: camping at MIS. We are doing all we can to keep prices flat, all while adding amenities for our fans. We are also opening our campgrounds earlier in the week without raising prices so you can stay longer at MIS and truly make our racetrack and the beautiful surrounding Irish Hills a summer vacation.

Read the rest of the NASCAR.com opinion piece here: http://www.nascar.com/2009/news/opinion/02/12/mis.craig.op.ed/index.html

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