Race tracks continue to change the playbook over their future in a post-pandemic world. The month we will take a look at how circuits pivoted and the stress on their finances.

Last year, racing took the black flag for a few months. Slowly activity returned with a few maverick short tracks playing loose with local restrictions.

The larger venues hosted NASCAR races without spectators a mere ten weeks after many postponements. The industry has been lauded for its return to live competition This would not have been possible without comprehensive multi-scenario approach involving participation by all stake-holders.

The monetary impacts were deep.

The publically-traded Formula One Group revenue was down almost forty percent and lost several hundred million in operating income. This reflected a loss in races, lower broadcast fees, renegotiated sanction agreements and reduced sponsorship and advertising inventory.

Private track operators NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports operations were disrupted by the inability to host live events with fans in attendance. This led to increased debt leverage and lower operating cash flow. The multiyear television contracts provide higher broadcast revenues at a nice margin level somewhat offsetting the declines in admissions, food, beverage and merchandise categories.

Part of the concern for sports facilities may be under-utilization. Operators must be creative and reimagine purposes for the venue.

Race tracks excel in at keeping their places busy. They are adaptable and flexible. Their large footprint and scale has many advantages.

The list of activities at race track is impressive. It is typical for many to host almost one thousand event days per year. Multi-events from morning to night is the norm. Quick and efficient turn-arounds keeps the operations staff busy.

A leading global triathlon festival race series, Challenge Family, selected Florida for its return. Daytona International Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted professional and amateur athletes for competition. The races were broadcast live around the world on social media platforms.

The unique layout and attributes made the speedways the perfect place to host a triathlon. Swimming in Lake Lloyd, cycling the interior road course, and running the high banks provided an action packed race in a self-contained non-spectator environment.

The rental fees from hosting these events were probably not material, It did prove that existing infrastructure can be utilized for non-traditional activities. The triathlon’s on-screen graphics and virtual race enhancements were powered by NASCAR Productions and its broadcast technology partner SMT.

The ultimate goal is to return fans into the seats. This vaccine and its increased deployment is an encouraging sign. Tracks have safety rules in place which limit attendance. Experts feel that plans with limited attendance that allow for physical distancing and masks worn properly are preferable. Fans must feel safe and trust that their needs are being safeguarded.

The growth and success in live-streaming may impact at track attendance. The live competitive action and on-site experience provided by the promoter will be key to driving this revenue source. Multi-screen usage and digital technology with curated content during the week will keep fans engaged away from the track.

Most of the race series are planning for a full schedule this year. There have been early season adjustments which is to be expected as locations vary in their reopening guidelines. Postponed events may be made up later proving a chance to recapture revenue, similar to rain outs.

Overall, we can expect the financial aspects of the year ahead to be favorable, challenging tracks, series, teams, and fans alike in new and unexpected ways.