Renovations, name change brings a new look and feel to Phoenix Raceway

AVONDALE — Big changes are in the works at Phoenix Raceway. On top of its massive renovation, the track unveiled its announcement of a title shift on Sept. 26. The track has signed ISM Connect as its naming rights partner. The transition to becoming ISM Raceway, effective 2018, is the first time in the track’s history that it has sold such rights.

“It feels like we have already been getting more calls since the renovation announcement and then more again from the ISM deal announcement,” said Adam Zubiate, a Phoenix Raceway account executive. “People have tons of questions and just seem really excited about all of it.”

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A Phoenix Raceway car sits in front of the Heard Museum in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona on Tue. Sept 12th, 2017.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Pannel members reveal the new logo on a race car in Pleasant Valley, Arizona on Tues. Sept 26th, 2017.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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The Arizona state flag flies outside of the Heard Museum in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona on Tues. Sept 12th, 2017.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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A Phoenix International raceway car sits in front of the Heard Museum in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona on Tue. Sept 12th, 2017.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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The new ISM Raceway logo appears on a race car in Pleasant Valley, Arizona on Tues. Sept 26th, 2017.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Michael Waltrip takes a selfie of Phoenix Raceway's name change pannel in Pleasant Valley, Arizona on Tue. Sept, 26th, 2017.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)

The first portion of the $178 million renovation was completed just in time for November’s Can-Am 500. This marks the first renovation since its opening more than 50 years ago.

The completed portions to date include 33 suites, which provide an open kitchen and bar area, and the “Curve” hospitality suite, where up to 300 tickets are available for individual sale. The Curve sits six stories above the track and provides guests with a panoramic view of the racing and the Valley.

“Curve” luxury suite experience made its debut for the Can-Am 500, November 10-12 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Raceway)
Curve hospitality suite at Phoenix Raceway includes all you can eat from breakfast to dinner in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Raceway)
“Curve” hospitality suite is one of the first completed renovations at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Raceway)
Curve hospitality suite is the first part of the modernization project to open up to the fans at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Raceway)
Curve hospitality chefs prepare three meals a day for fans at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Raceway)
Curve hospitality suite sits six stories above the track at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Raceway)
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The new hospitality suite, Curve, has a modern look and feel at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Raceway)

“The whole stadium is going through an incredible transformation,” said track President Bryan Sperber in a September interview. “It’s going to impact our grandstands with new seats and elevators and escalators. What it means for fans is convenience and comfort. The individual seats have cup holders and are wider and just better.”

Renovations will also add a brand new tunnel and midway in the center of the track. Sperber called the fan experience in center field “Disney meets NASCAR” and said he thinks it will give fans a behind-the-scenes look at race day operations in the garages and for the drivers. This will give fans new opportunities to interact with the teams on race day.

Part of September’s renaming announcement was the introduction of ISM’s 360° Connect network, which “will provide the modernized venue with advanced, robust technology and data capabilities.”

This will make it the first motorsports facility with free wifi throughout the venue. Organizers plan to enhance the live experience through digital display screens, innovative social media and a raceway app which will include in-seat ordering.

The renovations and transition of the track to ISM Raceway are intended to provide benefits to fans, drivers and the surrounding community. For drivers, one of the main changes will be garage improvements.

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Construction was haulted for the Can-Am 500 on November 10th in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Phoenix Raceway construction will run from January 2017 to November 2018 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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In total, the renovations at Phoenix Raceway will cost 178 million dollars in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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These renovations will bring a new look and feel to Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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The grand stands at Phoenix Raceway will be completed by November 2018 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Construction workers hammer stakes in front of the bar and grill garage which will be completed in time for the Spring 2018 race schedule.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Effective 2018, the track will be known as ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Construction workers prepare a staircase for the Can-Am 500 on Thursday, September 28 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Construction at the raceway is being done in phases so that it can still host events throughout the renovation in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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The suites were all freshly renovated for the Can-Am 500 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)

Additionally, the start/finish line moves to the Phoenix Raceway signature turn, the dogleg, which will be a big change for drivers as well as fans. This means drivers will have to make the decision to stay on the track or to dive bomb, which essentially means to cut drivers off and maneuver from the outside lane to the inside and try to cut the corner.

“That’s always been one of the most exciting turns in all of NASCAR and by moving the start/ finish line there we just added a lot of high octane to what’s already a chaotic turn,” Sperber said.

The restart zone will also be located in a turn now. This means drivers will get the green flag in an even more stacked manner than usual and be forced to get heavy on the gas while hitting a turn. This move also brings the restart zone to a shaded portion of the track for fans and closer to the parking lot for added convenience.

These renovations also mean the entire facility is now able to be rented out for sporting events, musical festivals and other live events. Sperber said they have already signed a few events for this coming year and plan on many more. He would not comment on what those would be.

For some longtime Avondale community members, however, these changes are not so easy to digest.

“It will always be Phoenix Raceway to me. Nothing can change that,” said Avondale resident and NASCAR fan Ann Catlin. She said for families like hers, which comes to the track often, this change is not exciting or welcomed.

With the $178 million investment coming from Florida-based parent company International Speedway Corporation — which also owns tracks such as Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway — Phoenix Raceway officials are sure there will be an economic benefit to the Valley.

“It’s a huge, huge economic win for our state and Gov. (Doug) Ducey and all of us in Arizona,” Sperber said.

Ducey said at an October press conference the transition to ISM Raceway will mean great things for the Valley. The governor emphasised this is the next era of racing.

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Drivers trucks line the inner track at the Can-Am 500 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite news)
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Daniel Suarez’s team rolls his car out to the track at the Can-Am 500 on November 10,2017 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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A sign gets fixed mid-race at the Can-Am 500 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives out onto the track for his last pre race practice ever at the Can-Am 500 on Friday, Novemebver 10 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Jet trails fill the sky at the Can-Am 500 on November 10, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronnkite News)
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Flags wave over drivers trailers at the Can-Am 500 on November 10, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. walks out to his final carreer race on November 10, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Cars zoom around the track in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite News)
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Kurt Busch’s team preps his car for the Can-Am 500 on November 10, 2017 in Avondale, Arizona.(Photo by Michelle Minahen/Cronkite news)

Arizona has been a hub for sporting entertainment in the last three years, hosting the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, the college football national championship and the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball tournament, which collectively brought in $1.3 billion. Add to this baseball’s spring training, the Waste Management Open golf tournament and others, and Ducey noted the ISM Raceway renovations will significantly add to the Valley’s lucrative sports industry.

“This is an exciting and significant investment for the state of Arizona it will make us the premier destination for these epic sporting events,” Ducey said. He regards it as a point of pride for the state.

Sperber said making the raceway a world-class sporting event will ensure and enhance the economic growth and will give a platform which will attract new events to the state.

The grand reopening of the raceway is expected in November 2018.