Raceway as Manager: At Talladega, the Superspeedway is primary tenant, FBO, and administrator

Managing Air

Raceway as manager:
At Talladega, the Superspeedway is primary tenant, FBO, and administrator

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

At Talladega, the Superspeedway is primary tenant, FBO, and administrator

TALLADEGA, AL - The Talladega Superspeedway, some 30 miles east of Birmingham, is known to NASCAR race fans as the world's fastest speedway. For two weekends each year it is the center stage of racing, attracting thousands of fans as well as some 350 aircraft at the Talladega Municipal Airport, which lies adjacent to the speedway. Its proximity has led to an arrangement in which the Superspeedway, the primary tenant, contracts with the city to provide fixed base operation services and day to day airport management.

Comments airport board chairman Ray Miller, "It's probably one of the best situations for a general aviation airport. They are our biggest customer and they are also responsible for handling all of the aircraft. I think it has generated a lot more interest having the speedway right next door versus a typical general aviation airport.
"Plus, normally there are race teams testing there at just about any given time, so aircraft are constantly coming in."

He points out that aircraft activity is also increasing following the installation of a Honda automobile manufacturing plant at Lincoln, some five miles from the airport. "We are seeing freight moved in for Honda, and we recently leased a building for a company that has a freight contract with Honda," he says.

Grant Lynch
Grant Lynch

5-year, renewable lease
Talladega Municipal, which actually sits outside the city limits and in Talladega County, is owned by the City of Talladega, which contracts with a subsidiary of the International Speedway Corporation, owner of the Talladega Superspeedway.

"Through North American Testing Corporation, which is a subsidiary of the International Speedway Corporation, we have the contract to be the FBO for the airport," explains Grant Lynch, president of the Super-speedway and vice president of North American Testing.

According to Miller, the lease term with the speedway is for five years, with an ongoing five-year renewable option, which calls for NATC to provide FBO services as well as normal airport maintenance. The Super-speedway, which sits on some 2,000 acres in total, leases various office space, facilities, and adjacent property used primarily for campsites on race weekends.

International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum Adjacent to the Talladega Superspeedway is the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum. It also houses the International Speedway Corporation, which through a subsidiary, contracts with the City of Talladega to provide FBO and airport management services for the Municipal Airport.

The city and the speedway split 50/50 revenues generated by the 35-40 t-hangars. Miller estimates that the hangars and other facilities bring in about $40,000 annually to the city, and the speedway pays an "annual rent" for property it leases. There are no fuel flowage or landing fees.

Talladega Municipal Airport

Talladega Municipal Airport sits some eight miles from the city and features a 6,002-foot runway. In 2003, an AWOS was installed and an ILS is planned for 2004.

"We get the profit from the fuel sales and split the hangar rental fees," explains Lynch. "That's pretty much it in terms of revenues."

An industrial park sits on airport property and is home to a military truck refurbishing company, a firm that manufactures industrial pallets, a Harley-Davidson research and development facility, a restaurant, and a service station, among others.

The International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum, which also houses the Superspeedway offices, sits on some 20 acres donated to the state by the speedway.
On race weekend, the airport handles some 700 takeoffs and landings, according to Lynch, along with some 30,000 campers. "It's fans, teams, sponsors, helicopter shuttle services from Birmingham - it's all race-related," he says.

The speedway is also popular with race teams year-round, says Lynch, and the airport is one of the key reasons why. "It certainly makes it easy for the teams to come in and test during non-race time," he explains. "They can send their car down the night before in a big hauler, and the testing team can jump in the plane in Concord [NC] and be here in 45 minutes. Then they test all day long and fly home."

A 12-member airport board, appointed by the city, oversees the operation of the airport, with the speedway allowed one representative. Miller says the airport operates in the black and generates enough revenue for matching funds for capital improvements. On tap for 2004 is installation of an ILS and widening of the taxiway, says Miller.

"A Myriad of Other Aircraft"

Ronnie Franklin, president of the Race Team Aviation Association, spearheads an initiative to communicate to ATC and airports the impact of the racing
community on the air transportation system.

Franklin, who serves as the corporate pilot for driver Joe Nemechek's Citation II (pictured), estimates that there are some 120 corporate aircraft used on any given weekend by NASCAR/ Nextex Cup Series (formerly Winston Cup) race teams. He relates that aircraft used by drivers and their teams range from 737s to Citations to Jetstream 31s, along with some 56 King Airs and "a myriad of other aircraft."

On the ground, Franklin estimates that a typical race weekend sees some 300 car rentals by NASCAR teams, and a total of some 3,000 auto rentals can be directly attributed to the race. He says that a typical race weekend will account for some 40,000 in fuel gallons sold.

RTAA was formed, he says, in conjunction with the National Business Aviation Association in an effort to better communicate with air traffic control and airports. "There is a group of us that will go to the airports, the FBOs, and the air traffic control centers prior to the race so they have a good idea of what they can expect," he says.