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Texas-Sized Changes Announced For TMS

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 25 2013

Texas Motor Speedway will be come a video star next season. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Fans attending NASCAR and INDYCAR races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2014 invariably will find themselves locked in a stare-down with Big Hoss TV, a “monumental” addition to Eddie Gossage’s No Limits Wild Asphalt Circus.

“Big Hoss is unquestionably the biggest, baddest big-screen in the world. Not in racing, not in American sports, no qualifiers – the world,” Gossage, TMS’ president, declared during an elaborate unveiling of the track’s schedule at The Speedway Club.

Big Hoss – any reference to Hoss Cartwright of TV’s “Bonanza” series is coincidental – will make its debut during the April 3-6 Texas 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend. To be built above the center portion of the backstretch grandstands, Big Hoss will stand a Texas-sized 12 stories high and feature a Panasonic high-definition video board display 79 percent larger than the screen at Jerry Jones’ AT&T Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington.

That fact drew a loud round of hoots and yee-haws worthy of a Fort Worth Stockyards honky-tonk from the invited crowd of approximately 250 guests, including political and tourism leaders from surrounding communities, season-ticket holders, Texas DOT officials and media. All were informed that:

_Road improvements totaling more than $1.1-billion along Highway 114 _ the main thoroughfare for fans traveling east of TMS _ will be completed before this November’s AAA Texas 500 NASCAR tripleheader weekend. (Insert yee-haws here).

_ NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Texas 500 will be moving from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, April 6, to accommodate fans attending the NCAA Men’s Final Four weekend over at “Jerry’s World”. In addition, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race will be contested on Friday night, April 4, rather than Saturday afternoon.

_ INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series, has agreed to extend the length of the annual summertime night race by 50 kilometers and from 228 to 248 laps, re-dubbing the June 7 event the Firestone 600. The companion NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event will be paired with the IndyCar race for the 18th consecutive season, dating to TMS’ inaugural 1997 season. The WinStar World Casino and Resort 400 will be held Friday night, June 6.

_ The AAA Texas NASCAR tripleheader weekend set for Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2014, again will feature the Cup race as Round 8 of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“The annual sanction agreements, we’re in the final stages of discussion for both INDYCAR and NASCAR and they’ll be signed soon,” Gossage said after a presentation delivered before a scale-model of Big Hoss and the backstretch seating complete with RV parking in Burnout Alley; a TV commercial that will be aired in the Metroplex market and what amounted to an unexpected public plea for support for the Speedway Motorsports, Inc., facility.

“To the cities and communities and tourism organizations that are represented here tonight, Texas Motor Speedway annually spends around $70-million a year to promote and produce events to bring tourists to the area,” Gossage said. “We just made a huge commitment, an even bigger commitment, by building this monument to the sport, Big Hoss. The question is _ what are you going to do to roll out the red carpet to welcome race fans to our community? What are you going to do to get them to spend money with your businesses? It’s time that you guys step-up your commitment…so I want to share that with you tonight.

“We hope you like our news. We hope you’re going to tell everybody about it. We’ll hope you’ll encourage your friends and business associates – area businesses, area leaders – we need your support. We need you to buy seats. We need local companies to buy blocks of tickets to VIP suites and sponsorship packages and things of that nature. We need you to reciprocate on the investment we’ve made in Fort Worth and Dallas and North Texas.”

And, be sure to pick up your free goody-bag on the way out, complete with Big Hoss t-shirt.

The addition of Big Hoss is TMS’ answer to the dilemma facing managements of all major sporting facilities in this age of social media, TV-on-demand and an economy that remains soft on middle class America. SMI management is betting Big Hoss will entice a good number of former, on-the-fence ticket buyers to get off the couch and venture back out to TMS, as well as first-timers perhaps familiar with the Cowboys’ ballyhooed video board.

Along those lines, TMS agreed to move its annual April race _ run on Saturday night the past three years _ up one week and switch to Sunday with the idea of piggybacking interest from college hoops fans looking for an event to attend between Saturday’s NCAA Final Four semifinal games and Monday’s championship. “We told NASCAR we would do this for one year only because we want to better-serve race fans and basketball fans in-town,” Gossage said. “We will return to a Saturday night race in 2015.”

Gossage said O. Bruton Smith, chairman/CEO of SMI, approved the Big Hoss project in December, ending five years of campaigning/complaining on his part. Big Hoss will feature 20,633.64-square feet of HD display _ nearly a half-acre _ with dimensions of 218-feet wide and 94.6-feet tall. The entire structure will stand nearly 125-feet above ground-level and weigh more than 108 tons.

The display size will allow TMS to succeed sister SMI facility Charlotte Motor Speedway (16,000-square feet) as owner of the world’s largest sporting venue HD screen, as well as wrestle the Lone Star State title away from the NFL Houston Texans’ Reliant Stadium, which recently upgraded its facility with 14,549-square feet of HD video displays. Locally, AT&T Stadium’s video screen measures 11,520-square feet.

No financial terms were disclosed on the agreement between TMS and Panasonic, represented on-site by Richard Ballard, vice president of sales and marketing for Panasonic Eco Solutions North America. Gossage deftly avoided dollar specifics during and after his official presentation.

“I negotiated the price so I knew what it cost _ but when they handed me that purchase order to sign I kind of gulped a little bit and signed it,” Gossage said. “I’ve signed a lot of checks building this place but that’s the biggest single purchase order, and it’ll be the biggest check, I’ve ever signed. It’s pretty cool.”

Big Hoss’ 1080 pixel screen will consist of nearly 4.8-million pixels, display 281 trillion colors and feature a 140-degree horizontal viewing radius to provide sharp HD imagery for fans in every frontstretch seat and suite. For fans seated along the backstretch, Panasonic also will be installing an 18-foot-by-24-foot, 1080 pixel HD video board on the infield side of the backstretch for their viewing.

During race weekends the video board will provide live race coverage, leader information, driver and race statistics, instant replays and interactive entertainment. “It will completely change the dynamics of infield camping,” Gossage said. “The value of infield spots just went up. This screen opens up a whole new inventory of sponsorship for us.

“You’ll see Big Hoss from miles away as well. I can tell you that commercial airline pilots making their approach into DFW Airport will point it out to their passengers just as they point out the Grand Canyon or the Mississippi River _ it is that big. They do it at our speedway in Charlotte, N.C.

“Now we’ve thrown down. So if anybody else wants to try to top it _ go ahead. Help yourself. This is the biggest HD screen in the entire world, right here at Texas Motor Speedway.”

Construction will begin following the Oct. 31-Nov. 3 AAA Texas 500 NASCAR tripleheader weekend, with the project scheduled for completion by March 2014.

Season-tickets, consisting of three race weekends and 16 events, begin at $270 for adults and $150 for children 12-and-under and will go on sale in conjunction with the schedule announcement. Season ticketholder benefits include best seat selection; discounts up to 29 percent (varies on seat location) over purchasing tickets individually; special discounts on concessions, merchandise, camping, parking and pit passes; access to the pre-race “No Limits” Garage Party presented by WinStar World Casino in April and November and special offers on additional events held at TMS.

Current season-ticket holders will have first chance at renewing their seats or relocating for the best site lines of Big Hoss TV. The 2014 season-ticket packages for new accounts will go on sale during the AAA Texas 500 race weekend of Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

Individual race tickets will go on sale Feb. 14, 2014. Priority reservations will be given to 2013 season- ticket holders, 2013 AAA Texas 500 4-Pack purchasers upgrading to 2014 season tickets, new 2014 season-ticket purchasers, 4-Pack purchasers for the upcoming AAA Texas 500 and individual ticket purchasers for the AAA Texas 500, respectively. For additional ticket information, call the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 25 2013
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