By: Carl Kotala
Transformation Races to the Finish
A staggering amount of money is being invested to turn one of Central Florida’s hottest tourist areas into an even more spectacular destination that will have year-round appeal to both visitors and local residents. Daytona Beach, which already draws an average of 8.5 million tourists per year, has a number of projects in the works with the initial rollout expected to come in 2016.
These projects include the $400 million transformation of the Daytona International Speedway (DIS) into what Speedway President Joie Chitwood calls a “Motorsports Stadium.” Dubbed “Daytona Rising,” the project will feature three new concourse levels for fans along the front stretch, 101,500 new upgraded seats and a host of new amenities that will make the 55-year-old facility unlike any other in the world of NASCAR, or any other type of racing.
Across the street, construction has begun on One Daytona, which, when fully completed, calls for 1.4 million square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space, along with 660 hotel rooms, 2,500 movie theater seats, 1,350 residential units, an additional 567,000 square feet of office space and up to 500,000 square feet of research and development space. It has an estimated price tag of $289 million for the first phase, which is set for completion in 2016.
Bass Pro Shops is also set to open a 70,000-square-foot store at that location and Cobb Theatres has announced it will have a 12-screen theater, including one screen that will be among the largest in Central Florida – 80 feet wide and nearly four stories tall.
The beachside area of Daytona is also getting a facelift. Plans are underway for a Hard Rock Café and Hotel that could open in late 2016 or early 2017. There is also a $150 million condo and hotel project that is being developed by Protogroup, a Russian family-owned business.
“I think we’re poised to do something magical here when all of this breaks open in 2016 and 2017,” said Emory Counts, Daytona Beach’s economic/community development director. “I don’t think you’re going to know this town anymore. Well, give it a year or two for people to get used to it, but it’s going to be huge.
“We’ve got a host of small businesses that are also growing in this area and expanding, or looking to get here to ride this wave. The time to get in is now. You get in on the ground floor and when this wave rises…the sky’s the limit.”
The projects are expected to have an incredible financial boom for the Daytona Beach and Volusia County area. The first phase of One Daytona, a joint venture between DIS parent company International Speedway Corporation and Jacoby Development, will support more than 4,700 construction jobs, resulting in $209 million in paid wages for a $583 million impact for the region, according to a report released by The Washington Economic Group (WEG).
Daytona International Speedway, which recently applied to receive up to $90 million in sales-tax incentives from the state, released figures in which it is projecting average annual increases of 1.37 million in attendance as it adds new non-racing events such as music festivals, sports and even fighting events.
Chitwood likened the expanded use of the facility to the way Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has used his new facility.
“That’s how you do it now,” Chitwood said. “Instead of being the world center of racing, maybe we’re going to become the world center of entertainment. That’s going to be the key – new events to match the new property. That’s going to drive more tourists, and that’s going to drive more economic impact.”
Staying True to Its Roots
The Speedway and its parent company, which already have a $1.6 billion economic impact, may be looking at other forms of entertainment, but make no mistake, this will be a special place for all NASCAR fans to come enjoy the sport they love in a remarkable facility.
In addition to the new concourse levels, there will be five expanded and redesigned fan entrances called “injectors,” and 11 social areas throughout the front stretch called “neighborhoods” that will each be the size of a football field and come with open sightline design and dozens of video screens.
For convenience, there will be 14 elevators and 40 escalators in the new grandstand, and the number of bathrooms will be doubled. More than 60 new trackside suites will be available when construction is completed in time for the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Daytona 500, which is known as the “Great American Race.”
Chitwood believes the investment being made in the Speedway and One Daytona is significant because it shows just how much the France family (Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1948) believes in Daytona Beach, so much so that it is willing to reinvest in the community to the tune of more than a half-billion dollars. The new properties are bound to create memories for future race fans and visitors.
“When you say Daytona, it really is connected to NASCAR. They’re almost one in the same in terms of how special it is,” Chitwood said.
He continued, “All of the heroes of our sport made their name at Daytona, such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, and the Allisons (Bobby and Donnie). So for us, we’re just getting the property ready for the next 50 years of great experiences. But instead of just bolting on escalators in the back and changing out seats, we’re creating a new experience. We’re getting ready for the next generation of fans.
“I think that’s special as well because it shows you the vision the France family has for where they want the sport to go, and we’re planting our flag. We’re not going anywhere. We’ve been here for 50-plus years, and we’ll be here for 50-plus more.”
Having One Daytona across the street with easy access to the Speedway not only gives race fans more to do before and after race day, but it will attract both tourists and locals to the site year-round. That’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“When you think about a sports property that’s going to bring in hundreds of thousands of people, what a great location to have a retail dining opportunity where you have a built-in crowd multiple times a year,” Chitwood said. “We’re excited. We think it’s really going to complement what we’re doing and it’s really going to change the front door to Daytona, when you think about it.”
While the speedway will always be the top attraction in Daytona, the addition of the Hard Rock Hotel and the construction by Protogroup will also be significant in drawing even more potential business to the area.
“It’s a huge impact,” Daytona Beach Redevelopment Director Reed Berger said. “We’re talking about a few hundred million dollars of direct impact in the property tax value. There’s also the fact that they are a flagship for other developments to come to the area. They send a signal to attract a lot of other development to this area, especially the Hard Rock because of the brand.”
That will be especially true if the Toronto-based Bayshore Capital, which is developing the Hard Rock Hotel project, is able to go ahead with the second part of its plan.
“That phase is providing for a large residential structure and the opportunity for everything right up to the possibility of a casino, if the state were to approve such an opportunity,” Berger said.
In addition to all of those major construction jobs, the city is also replacing the Veterans Memorial Bridge at an estimated cost of $43 million. There are also a number of other events going on in the city, which should really revitalize the area.
“The level of excitement in Daytona Beach right now is at an all-time high,” Daytona Beach Area CVB Executive Director Tom Caradonio said. “The many attraction developments – from our Daytona Rising and One Daytona projects at the Speedway to our new planetarium and soon-to-open Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art at the Museum of Arts & Sciences – are giving people even more reasons to book travel to this area.
“Several of our classic hotel properties are launching multi-million-dollar renovations; some are starting from the ground up and adding popular flags, and the Hard Rock Hotel is bringing even more worldwide attention to the World’s Most Famous Beach. All of this will have a huge economic impact on the area.”
While the transformation of Daytona Beach won’t take full effect until 2016, it’s not hard to dream about what the revitalized city will look like in a few years. It will always be famous for its beach and its racetrack, but before you know it, Daytona Beach will have so much to offer, it will have to move up even higher on the list of must-see vacation spots. And with so many jobs being created, it will be a pretty nice place to live, too.
“The plans have such promise. On day one, we’re going to think it’s great – and it’s going to be great – but it’s going to morph into something astounding,” Counts said. “I couldn’t be happier.”