by Michael Lowrey
The UPoR had a front-page (!) story on Saturday on how the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s attendance figures had “stabilized” and how it was losing less money. Unfortunately but not unsurprisingly, the piece doesn’t get at the real issue. The facility’s economic impact depends upon its ability to attract new tourism money to the city. So how many people going to the HOF actually came to Charlotte specifically for the HOF? The UPoR article doesn’t say, but what clues it gives aren’t encouraging:
The CRVA projected that 400,000 people would attend the hall in its second year and each subsequent year. The museum is on pace to attract about 200,000 people this year.
In their second years of operation, attractions like the NASCAR hall typically see attendance declines of 25 percent, as the newness wears off.
But the hall has recently been able to keep attendance steady due to more aggressive discounting, including giving locals and convention attendees reduced-price tickets. In addition, the hall has reached out to school groups, and yellow buses have been a common fixture in front of the museum.
Giving locals and convention attendees cut-rate tickets to boost attendance? Not much net economic impact there — that spending is money that very likely would have been somewhere else locally. And school groups? So essentially, we’re saying that we used tax money to build and operate a monument to the racing success of the France family because of its educational value? So, yes, a ever-hyped sports museum for the children?
Bonus observation: Now I’m sure NASCAR isn’t objecting to school groups as it helps indoctrinate kids to the virtues of stock car racing. Every little bit helps, especially when you’ve got a technology boring (fuel injection only in 2012?) spec-car series that’s unlikely to capture the next generation’s imagination on its own.