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NASCAR Hall of Fame
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NASCAR Hall attendance declines in third year

- sharrison@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013

The NASCAR Hall of Fame’s attendance in its third year was 176,838, a 10 percent decrease compared with the year before, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which manages the racing museum.

The CRVA hasn’t finished a detailed financial analysis of the hall, so it’s unknown how it fared financially. It lost money in its first two years of operations.

The attendance numbers cover the fiscal year that ended June 30. In the hall’s first year, it attracted 272,000 fans. Second year attendance was 197,410.

The decrease isn’t a surprise, as museums and attractions often see attendance declines after opening. Attendance often stabilizes in the fourth year of operation.

CRVA spokesperson Laura Hill said Friday the tourism authority is focusing on generating more revenue for each visitor. CRVA chief executive Tom Murray has said the original attendance projections — 800,000 people in its first year, and 400,000 visitors in ensuring years — weren’t realistic. Murray was hired by the CRVA in December 2011, replacing Tim Newman.

Hill said the CRVA is “focusing on maximizing revenue to ensure that the venue is financially sustainable in the long term.” She said the CRVA is working to increase rentals for the hall and also convince people attending conventions at the adjacent Convention Center to come to the hall.

Since Murray came to the CRVA, he started a new accounting system called “One CRVA,” in which the financial performance of individual venues are no longer reported. The CRVA only reports its financial performance for the overall organization.

The CRVA manages city owned buildings such as the Convention Center, Bojangles Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium.

But the CRVA has said it will do a separate financial report for the hall, in part to satisfy the terms of its contract with NASCAR. Under the deal to operate the hall, the CRVA is supposed to pay royalties of up to 10 percent of hall revenues.

The CRVA can defer those payments if the hall doesn’t turn a profit. The hall lost more than $2 million in its first two years of operation.

Hill said the hall’s financial report for fiscal year 2013 should be finished next month.

Improving the hall’s financial performance is more important than ever for the CRVA, whose funds have been depleted to help the Carolina Panthers.

The City Council this year voted to give the Panthers $87.5 million for stadium renovations in exchange for a six-year “hard tether” to keep the team in Charlotte. The money for the Panthers came from the city and the CRVA’s Convention Center fund, which comes from a 3 percent hotel/motel tax and a 1 percent tax on prepared food and beverages in Mecklenburg County.

With a significant part of the CRVA’s future revenues going to the Panthers, the CRVA has less financial breathing room to pay for Hall of Fame operating losses.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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