News: Charlotte Exclusives

Team Charlotte

Far beyond NASCAR valley lies the city's true desire

You gotta hand it to Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, he has set his sights on nabbing the NASCAR Hall of Fame for his city and nothing is stopping him, least of all thinking small. To kick-off race week festivities leading up to Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, McCrory again returned to his “NASCAR valley” meme that has Charlotte at the center of a virtual NASCAR nation.

But what if we drop the virtual, go for the heart of the matter, and think really big. Charlotte really doesn’t want a NASCAR Hall of Fame; the city wants a NASCAR team.

Why slug it out with Atlanta and Kansas City for a boring museum? Route around those losers, join the Fortune 500 companies, and get involved in the sponsorship side. Just cut to the chase and get Charlotte its own NASCAR team. Sponsorship’s gotta be cheaper in the long run than $65 million right now in hotel-motel taxes, millions more from the state, and a team should be a better long-run deal too.

NASCAR keeps the cost of sponsorships a trade secret, like tire compounds or something, but you should be able nab a primary sponsor role in a mid-tier team for $10 million a year and up. That’s a lot of money, but city could scrape that together by killing all its other marketing and rah-rah efforts, and maybe find a way to sell bonds secured by driver autographs for the balance.

Look, once you get a team you can build all kinds of civic events around it plus have the satisfaction of knowing that the City of Charlotte car – how ’bout the city’s big crown emblem on the hood – will market the city non-stop to race fans around the world. And not just race fans, NASCAR fans, the most loyal fans you can find.

A recent survey of 1,000 NASCAR fans by the James Madison University Center for Sports Sponsorship found that 93 percent said sponsors are “very important” to NASCAR, 51 percent feel they are contributing to the sport when they buy a sponsor’s product, and 47 percent like a sponsor’s brand more because it is involved in NASCAR. So get this, when NASCAR fans in Charlotte pay their tax bills, most will actually feel good about it. I told you we where thinking big, mayor.

Plus Team Charlotte would have none of the millions in ongoing costs associated with a static Hall of Fame, the same kinds of costs that keep jumping up and biting the city with regard to the Convention Center and the soon-to-open Uptown arena — upkeep, marketing, traffic control -– that kind of thing. Sponsors just write the checks and then go hang out with the VIPs. Does that sound like Charlotte or what?

You aren’t locked into anything long-term either; you can always hop around to different teams, crews, or drivers. Once you build a building, though, you are stuck with it for decades as the ugly, old Convention Center, the building that will not die, proves.

Charlotte’s own NASCAR team would also spin off other ancillary benefits, like giving Gov. Mike Easley something to do when he comes to town. What, the governor never visits Charlotte? Run a NASCAR team and he will. In fact, shut down Brookshire Freeway and let him careen down the road behind the wheel and that might be worth millions in extra road money, who knows. Better still, tell him I-485 is a new test track the team is building and – boom! – instant money to finish the Beltway.

As a result, this would plainly make a Charlotte NASCAR team an investment in the future. What are we waiting for? $10 million? $20 million? Whatever it takes. We got ball caps to sell and left turns to make, people.