Could more tracks cut seating capacity? It could happen to some SMI facilities

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Executives from Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns eight tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup races, suggested Wednesday that they might reduce seating capacity at some of their facilities.

SMI reduced seating capacity last year by 41,000 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and 17,000 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. When asked during a conference call with investor analysts about any further reductions, SMI hinted more could be made.

“In my thoughts, we probably have two or three or maybe even four of our speedways where we have some extra seats, and we are working on some plans to adjust that excess capacity,’’ said William Brooks, vice chairman and chief financial officer and treasurer for SMI.

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of SMI, said: “We’ve got different initiatives to bring more value to the customer in different areas and, as part of that, it will probably include some reduction. When you talk about seat reduction, in our minds, we’re looking for customer enhancement opportunities – not just reducing quantity but improving the quality of the event experience for the fans. We’ve been able to do that at a few speedways, and we’re working on that at a few more.’’

Neither named any tracks that could face a reduction in seating capacity.

They also were asked about advance ticket sales.

“Right now ours are relatively flat, but if we do go through the year flat, we would consider that a victory,’’ Brooks said.

SMI stated in its first quarter report that its “revenue categories continue to be negatively impacted by economic conditions, including underemployment and high food and health-care costs.’’

Smith was asked if SMI has seen more younger fans – Millennials – at races.

“I can tell you that internally we’re seeing positive things,’’ Smith said. “We’re seeing a lot of families come to the races and bring kids. We’re seeing teens and 20-somethings coming to the races. It’s very popular among the college crowd to kind of tailgate or camp out at NASCAR weekends. We’re very encouraged by that.’’

The company reported a net loss of $4.4 million in the first quarter of this year, compared to net income of $1.9 million at this time last year. Total revenues were $85.3 million in the first quarter of this year, compared to to 84.5 million at this time last year. SMI’s non-GAAP net income was $1.9 million in the first quarter of this year compared to $1.1 million at this time last year.

SMI owns Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.