CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - One of the loudest cheers over the easing of restrictions in North Carolina came from Cabarrus County. It meant that Charlotte Motor Speedway can now welcome fans back to the track for the Coca-Cola 600 in May.
“It was like Christmas morning…we joked, we were air high fiving each other, 30%, you’re talking about 28,500 people being able to be back for the Coca-Cola 600,” said Greg Walter, Executive Vice-President and General Manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The sign in front of the track was changed almost immediately, inviting fans to buy tickets for the Coke 600. Out beyond the track, it’s good news for a hospitality and tourism industry shaken by the pandemic.
“The increased capacity limits announced yesterday, it’s such fantastic news for our other hospitality partners in the area…our restaurants, bars, other attractions operating at lesser capacity, it’s an opportunity for them to welcome fans and visitors back as well,” said Julie Hinson of the Cabarrus Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We know that people are eager to travel and we are definitely eager to welcome them.”
In the last year Cabarrus lost major events like racing at zMAX Dragway, the AutoFair, including the one for this spring, and the usual NASCAR events at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Without the fans it’s like a hole in your heart…it’s really missing something,” Walter said.
There were 7000 fans at the track for the fall Bank of America ROVAL 400, but now with restrictions eased there could be more than 3 times that many in May.
It will take some work. Safety protocols will have to be followed, but the company that owns CMS has had experience doing this at other tracks.
“We’ve had 25,00 in Bristol, TN, so we know how to handle a crowd this size and do so safely without any incidents of contact tracing, without any spread of the disease. It’s just now scaleable going from 7000 to 28,000,” Walter added.
Other aspects of a race weekend like fan zones and pre-race concerts and activities are still in the planning stages.