Neighbors fret over sparse crowd for race weekend

Posted at 8:36 PM, Apr 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-28 20:38:50-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- For the past few years, a downturn in the economy has affected attendance at motor sports parks across the country, including Richmond International Raceway.

While RIR has adjusted ticket prices, it was not just the empty stands during race weekend that has other folks worried.

Jimmy Hicks, watched the race inside RIR Saturday night, said he noticed more empty seats he's noticed in the past.

And it wasn't just fans inside RIR, or those watching on television, who noticed it wasn't a sell-out crowd.

Inga Brown, like dozens of other homeowners near the track, has been renting out camping spaces in her yard since 1995.

"To see it dwindle off this much, it was very noticeable," said Brown. "I do rent Porta Potties. I used to get his and hers, but now with the crowd dying down, there was really no need for two."

Melissa McQuinn, who also rents out space in her yard, said she feels less people attended based on how many empty spaces were up for grabs in her yard.

"I mean, normally, you're like trying to fight people off … But they definitely came in sporadically this year and a lot later," she said.

On the other hand, race fans like Sherrie Hughes, who proudly proclaimed she attends every NASCAR race she can, said it is impacting all tracks and is not just a problem for RIR.

Many said attendance at NASCAR Races across the country are down.

"We are still the largest spectator sport, as far as attendance goes," said RIR Director of Communications Aimee Turner.

While RIR does not release ticket sale numbers, their impact is one of the largest in Central Virginia for just two weekends a year. And the track continues to make changes to fill the stands.

"We've done what we feel is important in adjusting our ticket prices for our fans, to make it more reasonable prices and we also do a lot of incentives for our fans," said Turner.

While the 88,000-seat racetrack was not a sell out on Saturday, recent studies indicate RIR's impact is still impressive.

In fact, both races are estimated to generate more than $400 million each year In Central Virginia.