NASCAR, one of North America’s biggest professional spectator sports, is experiencing a prolonged slump in ticket sales due to the still weak economy.
The auto racing league, which often pours more than 100,000 fans into the stands and infields at several tracks, has seen attendance drop at nine out of its first 10 races this season, according to USA Today. Some races are even logging non-sellouts for the first time in years.
Overall, attendance for 2010 is down about 10 percent compared to the same period in 2009, NASCAR says.
Earlier in the year, Speedway Motorsports, Inc., owner of nine NASCAR tracks said it recorded a decrease in earnings for 2009, with revenues also dropping to $550.5 million, down from $611 million the previous year.
NASCAR is trying to lure fans by lowering prices tickets and merchandise, and running various promotions, but only some of the deals seem to be taking hold. Roger VanDerSnick, chief operating officer of International Speedway Corp. (ISC), told USA Today that the season’s attendance woes have not been a surprise, but that still doesn’t lessen the sting. ISC owns 12 NASCAR tracks.
“A number of our ticketing strategies are working. But our sport is comprised of middle America, and (it’s) going to take time before the economy starts driving employment and consumer confidence,” he said. ISC has lowered some tickets at some tracks and is offering payment plans, among other incentives.
NASCAR will be at ISC-owned Darlington Raceway in South Carolina tomorrow night, May 8, for the Showtime Southern 500, and earlier in the week, the track was touting that tickets were still available. The annual race recorded four consecutive sellouts from 2005 to 2008, but for the past two years, it has reduced some ticket prices down to $35 each, a drop of about $10 per ticket.
“We went through a major price reduction during the offseason to help make attending a race at Darlington more affordable for our loyal fans,” Darlington Raceway President Chris Browning said in a statement. Prices for more than 40,000 seats have been reduced this season; seating capacity is 65,000. “We’ve also extended ticket office hours to include weekends to make the purchasing process a little easier for folks.”