By Helen E. McKinney
(September 2011) Impact from the July 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Kentucky Speedway has been felt across the region, local officials say. They believe avid fans, local merchants, city officials and residents have all been affected in some way.
Carrollton and Carroll County had a good experience, said Carrollton Mayor Gene McMurry. There seems to have been no major problems.
Complaints of traffic tie-ups and too many tailgaters did not seem to affect Carroll County as it did in other places. Businesses near I-71 had increased sales and hotels were full, according to McMurry.
Photo by Don Ward
Banners were used to welcome
race fans into Carrollton.
The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey about the event, and findings revealed that ATM usage was not up, and increased sales did not transfer to the downtown area as had been hoped. But overall, I think we were better prepared, than other places, said McMurry.
He said Race Fest, an event organized by the local chamber, was held in downtown Carrollton on Wednesday, July 6, just three days before the Sprint Cup race. McMurray said he thought the event had a positive outcome. Mostly local people attended it, and the car show portion was a big hit, he said.
Carrollton definitely plans to do it again, said McMurry. If the Sprint Cup race returns in 2012 on the same weekend, that of July 4, we plan to have fireworks to cap it off.
McMurry said one camping reservation has already been made for 2012 at the citys Two Rivers RV Park, which is under construction downtown on the Kentucky River. Although the RV park was not ready in time for the Sprint Cup race this year, by next year it will have a big impact on the RV park. This in turn will have a big impact on the downtown area, McMurray said.
One huge impact on neighboring Oldham County was that the county got a lot of press, which we really needed, said Kim Buckler, Oldham County Tourism Director.
Even though you cant put a monetary value on something like this, the extra exposure in the press was still very beneficial to the county, she said.
Several travel writers from Ann Arbor, Mich., visited the county during the race. Buckler said that through lunch and tours, they received a better idea of what Oldham County has to offer and will return the first week in October.
It was also good from a marketing standpoint, Buckler said. She created a new marketing piece to help local hoteliers, which included a coupon book. Many of the coupons do not expire until Dec. 31, providing an opportunity for the users to return to Oldham County and use them if they are able to do so.
We made it simple for the race car fans, she said. In addition to the coupon books, maps and a list of activities were available for visitors. Buckler spent seven hours in local hotels welcoming visitors to the county, and many race fans have tentatively booked accommodations for next years anticipated race.
A primitive campground will be available within the next few months in the county. This will add extra overnight accommodations for next years fans who want to camp.
The Tourism Commission even issued a commemorative Kentucky Speedway coin, creating only 1,000 coins. When NASCAR fans checked into hotels for two consecutive nights, they received a coin. Coins were also available at Karens Book Barn and Java Stop as a fundraising effort for each business marketing budget.
Oldham County couldnt have done anything differently to prepare, Buckler said. By the same time next year, brown tourism signage should be in place throughout the county to direct visitors to different attractions. To date, this two-year signage project is halfway finished.
Buckler compared the Sprint Cup race to the Equestrian Games held in Lexington, in terms of regional events. These games were specific in the locale and the people they drew from.
Buckler has long wanted to develop an attraction along I-71. Its never mentioned. Its like the lost corridor, in comparison to I-65 and I-64, she said.
Gallatin County Judge-Executive Kenny French said the race was a good learning experience for the county. There were certainly economic benefits to our people. Over 100,000 fans had a good time; thats the main thing.
French said certain issues, such as traffic, were being addressed and that he is confident a better plan will be in place for next years race. This was our first Sprint Cup race. There were a lot of things we did not expect including a lot of good things. I was completely surprised at the lack of issues we had. I thought we would be overwhelmed with police and emergency medical services issues.
He said the county is looking forward to the possibility of next years race at Kentucky Speedway. Just the process of correcting any negative issues will cause us to do things differently.