Source: The Lexington Dispatch
January 05, 2007
The new NASCAR Hall of Fame, slated to open in Charlotte by late 2009, will be a catalyst for other regional economic activities, its executive director predicts.
Winston Kelley, who is leading development of the $155 million facility for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, was the featured speaker for the 58th annual meeting of the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday night. "We truly look at it as an amenity for the whole community and the whole region," Kelley told a crowd of about 135 gathered for dinner at Thomasville Furniture Industries' central office on Main Street.
Economists are estimating the NASCAR Hall of Fame to generate more than $60 million of economic activity annually, he said.
Prior to landing what he calls his 'dream job,' the Concord native spent 27 years in business management, public relations and economic development with Duke Energy, the company that sponsored the chamber event.
But Kelley grew up in a racing family and has been passionate about motorsports since he attended his first Daytona 500 in 1964. His father, Earl Kelley, was a public relations director for Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the younger Kelley has been a radio broadcaster with the Motor Racing Network since 1988.
Using a short promotional video and a detailed computer slide show, Kelley explained how Charlotte edged out five other cities to win the project last year. "The biggest thing we thought we had to offer was the synergy with the existing NASCAR teams," he noted. With nine out of 10 NASCAR racing teams based in the region, Kelley expects hall of fame visitors to tour those sites as well. He described how a typical day trip might end at the Childress Vineyards winery in Lexington, where tourists will be able to enjoy dinner and spend the night in the adjacent hotel.
The hall of fame's uptown Charlotte site is owned by the city and will be managed by the CRVA, which also operates the Charlotte Convention Center, Ovens Auditorium, Cricket Arena and a portion of the nearby Charlotte Bobcats Arena. In addition to the exhibit area itself, plans for the facility include a new 100,000-square-foot ballroom, high-rise office tower and parking deck, all interconnected to the convention center. Nearly two-thirds of the project's cost will be funded by a new 2 percent hotel occupancy tax.
Kelley said he is working to make the NASCAR Hall of Fame Charlotte's 'signature tourist attraction.' "We hope that when people think of Charlotte, they'll think of the hall of fame," he said, describing the way people associate Nashville with music and Cooperstown with baseball as his goal.
The architectural firm Pei, Cobb and Freed Partners is designing the buildings. Among its many notable projects are the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City and an expansion of The Louvre in Paris.
Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the largest museum design firm in the world, is creating the exhibit space. The firm's work includes the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C. "These folks are truly world-class," Kelley observed. Visitors will begin their tour of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in a multimedia theater, possibly with live links to radio communications between drivers and pit crews during races, Kelley said. Afterward, they will get to see what a 35-degree banked racetrack looks like up close.
Groundbreaking is expected in the first quarter of this year, Kelley announced, with construction expected to take about 30 months.