'Up Front' Discusses Charlotte Motor Speedway's Future in Latest Episode
Aug 24, 2020 11:57AM
By Jason Huddle
Episode 72: A Day of Service and the Future of Charlotte Motor Speedway
Charlotte Motor Speedway has taken some serious hits this year - From having to run finless races to losing the All-Star Race altogether, CMS has had to undergo some serious pivoting. However, that hasn't stopped them from taking a day to give back to the community, as well was sit down with us to discuss what is next for the racing complex. Join host, Jason Huddle, as he talks with General Manager, Greg Walter, about what's in store for the speedway and why they chose to keep giving back in these difficult times. For more information about CMS, visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com
Jason Huddle 00:00
Charlotte Motor Speedway has taken some blows this year, but that hasn't stopped them from giving back to the community with a day of service. Today, we've got General Manager Greg Walter on location at Frank liske Park in Concord to talk about what they did this week to give back to the community, as well as the future of the racing complex. Could they be getting into the movie business?
Jason Huddle 00:18
The drive in movie theaters - I want to get back to that. Is that something that you think might happen even after all this is over?
Jason Huddle 00:26
Find out right now on Up Front withCabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. I'm your host Jason Huddle.
Jason Huddle 00:52
Hello my friends and welcome once again to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. I am your host Jason Huddle and today we are talking Charlotte Motor Speedway. There hasn't been a lot to talk about this year because of COVID. As we all know, this year hasn't gone the way anybody planned. But Charlotte Motor Speedway is doing a lot of pivoting just like the rest of us. And they are also still giving back to their community, which I really appreciate. So this week, I went out to Frank Liske Park to meet with Greg Walter, General Manager, as he was on site during the Charlotte Motor Speedway day of service. So you're going to hear all about that. We talked about what they were doing in the community on that particular day, as well as what they are doing to pivot and plan for the future. It's a very good and real conversation, and I'm looking forward to bring that to you. But not before we do shameless plug time.
Jason Huddle 01:42
I wanted to take a moment just to talk about the digital counterpart to Cabarrus Magazine, and that would be CabarrusMagazine.com. Not only do we have online versions of the magazine and new stories updated daily, but we also have a business directory. And there's a calendar of events, both of which are absolutely free for you to register your business on the business directory, and if you have an upcoming public event, you can put that on our calendar for free as well. In addition to that, you can also check out every episode of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine by clicking on the Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine podcast tab at the top of the page. You can listen to every episode, all 72 of them, including this one, as well as check out back issues of Cabarrus Magazine itself. So there's lots to do on CabarrusMagazine.com, including our restaurant report sponsored by Blue J Office Cleaning. We appreciate their support in helping us bring the top three and the bottom three restaurants to you each month. And that new report is up this week, so make sure you check that out as well. So check out CabarrusMagazine.com and don't forget, you can also subscribe to Cabarrus Magazine by clicking on the subscribe now button. And that's today's shameless plug time.
Jason Huddle 02:56
All right when we get back after the break, we'll be on location at Frank Liske Park in Concord to talk with Greg Walter, General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Right after this Stay tuned.
Jason Huddle 04:58
Welcome back to the program. We are on location at Frank Liske Park with Greg Walter. He's the GM and Grand Poobah of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Greg, once again, thank you for being on the program.
Greg Walter 05:11
Always, Jason. It's good to spend time with you.
Jason Huddle 05:13
So tell us about Day of Service. What are you guys out here doing today?
Greg Walter 05:17
So this is our third time doing this. And I was telling a friend of mine that if you really think about this is a natural extension of what we do. We - Our DNA for 60 years has been serving the community through entertainment through Motorsports. And this is kind of a focal point. And we wrestled with whether or not to do it, because of the pandemic restrictions and keeping people safe. But what was interesting to see was about two months ago, people - our team, people on the team start asking, Are we gonna do a day of service? How can we do it? It wasn't a question of if. It was a question of how and when. So, Susan McKee, Kelly Watts, from our team started, looking at opportunities in the community, and then the the ultimate filter was how do we do so safely so we have folks working out here doing grounds at Frank Liske - just in such a enormous place big place. And we can bring 25, 30 people over here socially distance, bring our landscaping tools and knock out probably three weeks of work.
Jason Huddle 06:18
You're and not rebuilding the barn?
Greg Walter 06:20
Not today. Not today we're we're mostly weeders and wheelbarrows and shovels. And we're doing a blood drive at the track today. We're also having some folks on routes on Meals on Wheels, taking food to folks. There were some of our members of our team who weren't able to get out right now. They weren't able to come to the track or they're working from home. So how do we make them feel included? Or maybe have their kids at home doing virtual Learning. We asked them to do was just show a random act of kindness. It could be something as simple as a thank you note to your postal workers put in the mailbox. It could be you know, cutting someone's lawn. It could be just saying hello to someone. Do something to serve others is the theme is that any of us can have an impact no matter what we do, and it can be in the smallest forms. But we all need to do our part to make it better.
Jason Huddle 07:13
It's funny that you mentioned that because next month's print issue of Cabarrus Magazine, we're actually going to be highlighting some episodes of Up Front. And one of the episodes that we're gonna be highlighting is an episode called, "A Word of Encouragement", where we talked to Pastor Dale Jenkins from New Hope Worship Center. And we talked about the fact that what's going to get us through all this, of course, when we did this interview it was April. We thought "through all this" meant, you know, maybe the end of May. But, what's going to get us through all this is serving each other as a community coming together. And I think that that's what this is partly about, right?
Greg Walter 07:50
Oh, no question. We know that we can have a big impact community. I mean, when this started in March, Marcus called The meeting of all the genes on the zoom call.
Jason Huddle 08:02
That's Marcus Marcus Smith, correct?
Greg Walter 08:04
Yeah. And Marcus said we need to make make an impact. So gather together your teams and think creatively about how you're going to do that. When I talked to him one on one, he's like, Can we do a mobile testing site for a train test for the COVID virus? I don't know boss, let me start making some phone calls. And between him and myself and our team, we were able to identify and have one of the first mobile testing sites of sports facility in the country. The fact that we're doing you know, food drives almost weekly, drive-in movies, you know, providing entertainment in a safe fashion and talking to, you know, help officials locally and talking to you know, the mayor, the county commissioners, you know, what can we do to serve what can we do to help things out, and we have this enormous facility and it's been a it's been a neat journey to realize that we can have make a difference in our community.
Jason Huddle 09:03
I'm gonna get to the drive-in in the next segment because I want to talk about how you guys have pivoted. But tell us about how people can get involved with the food drives. That's, that's a particular interest to me.
Greg Walter 09:15
We make notice or we tell people to share people about when we're having us food drives via our social media. And most of that stuff's either through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and but if you want actually, you can email me at GM (General Manager) [email protected] And our team will get back to you with some information on what the latest is because we're always adapting and seeing a need and trying to be nimble and service. So it may change where we gather food, may change from the front of the track to maybe somewhere over at zMax dragway. So things are always moving around. But we love it when our community can lean in and help us serve others. So if there's if there's interest in Being involved or whatever just go to the website if there's interest in being involved or for the food bank, actually email this address GM, General Manager GM at Charlotte Motor Speedway calm that'll get to me and we'll be able to give you up to date information on you know how you can help us out some of the causes of rehab with who drives or anything else we can give you the track.
Jason Huddle 10:25
Wonderful so you guys are working the grounds today you're doing blood - you're doing the blood drive and you're doing Meals on Wheels. I remember last year, you guys you helped a veteran
Greg Walter 10:36
Purple Heart homes
Jason Huddle 10:37
Yep, one of the Purple Heart homes, and I drive by the house all the time, and I still look back his ramp is still there. His flagpole is still up -
Greg Walter 10:45
It's good to leave a legacy - something that you did in a day that still has benefits a family or an individual and that's the kind of thing that this team. It's just so cool and humbling to be around people who just really desire to serve others. Yeah, that's super. When we come back from the break, I want to just briefly talk with you about how Charlotte Motor Speedway is doing. You guys have taken some gut punches lately and what you've been able to pivot to. So I want to - I want to kind of work through that if that's okay with you. You guys, stay tuned. We are on location at Frank Liske Park in Concord with Greg Walker from Charlotte Motor Speedway, and we will be back after a message from our sponsors. Stay tuned.
Jason Huddle 11:03
Welcome back to the program. We are sitting here at Frank Liske Park. Beautiful day. By the way, we're sitting under the trees on a picnic table. It's incredibly comfortable. Low humidity today, so -
Greg Walter 13:23
But I'm still sweating.
Jason Huddle 13:24
Yeah, you're working. I mean, you're like you're out there. Greg - let me tell you something about Greg Walter. He is not just somebody that's sitting in the shade in a director's chair with sunglasses pointing at people and saying go do this. He is out there, literally in the trenches. I mean, there's literal trenches that he's in. He's working.
Greg Walter 13:45
My shoes are soaked and calluses from the pitchfork but it's funny. The team - and your your listeners know this - when you lead a team, you lead from the front. My dad was in the Marines and he taught me that and so there's greater credibility when you serve out there. And so like everyone's got weed eaters and doing the bigger jobs like just give you the pitchfork or the rake and I'll just start use point to where you need me to go. Some of them kind of get a kick out of it. Boss, I need you over here, boss. It's kind of payback (Laughs). That's right.
Jason Huddle 14:17
So let's talk about Charlotte Motor Speedway. It has, just like everybody else, it has been a rough year for the speedway. You know, we did get to have a race in May, but it was not what we had originally anticipated. You always want a stand full of people cheering on the drivers and that didn't happen. Although the racing did, the All-Star race got moved to Bristol. Obviously, we haven't been able to have the fun, like the school bus races and things like that, that people - families look forward to. So how has that been for you guys? How have you adjusted to that?
Greg Walter 14:57
You know, our makeup, our focus all year long is how we put on these extraordinary events with a fan focus. Marcus Smith, our CEO, has this expectation that we do everything in an excellent way. And we've been planning for this. So to all of a sudden have that stopped, you know, in March, in mid March, when things began to quickly unravel. NBA said we're suspending games. NCAA says we're not having a tournament and then it just cascaded from there. Our focus has been, you know, what events can we have? How can we do this safely? You know, right now, we're still in phase two through September 11. How do we have events that entertain people? So we've had to look and be creative with how do we do that in a way that health officials are comfortable with. And, in a way, that is serving the community. At the same time, it makes good business sense. So we have a 16,000 square foot LED screen and it makes for a natural drive-in movie theater. So we've done a drive-in movies. We've done some virtual concerts. We had a Blake Shelton concert that he performed in Drive-ins all across the country. We've actually applied for status in the drive-in movie Association because we think we're now qualified to be a drive in movie theater. Looking at the fall races, we're working with health officials on how do we do so safely? How do we bring fans back? If you look, we've had races in Bristol with 20,000 plus fans. We've had a race in Texas, and had a racing game. Sure all done without any kind of community interaction. Health officials have not attributed anything back to those tracks. We think we could do it safely. We know we can do it safely proven that it's been creative. We've got this Avett Brothers concert coming up at the end of the month. That sold out in seven minutes. So there's a desire from the community or fans to get out there and do something I connects us to that.
Jason Huddle 17:02
We just were desperate, desperate for entertainment.
Greg Walter 17:05
And we want to do all we can in the right way to fill that in. And I think we're doing that. Tt's bunts and singles right now. It's little things that we can do to make sense. We're looking at - we expect an enormous demand for the Christmas lights show, Speedway Christmas, the Christmas Village, how do we do that safely? How do we have fans back on the the road? Well, how do we have fans back at NHRA? All those questions, we're having to constantly tool and retool and rethink, you know what's possible. We proved that we could have a live sporting event in May. The Coca-Cola 600 was one of the first events live back on television. And we think that we can do this safely here too. And we Marcus has always said that we will always choose to lead versus follow wherever possible. And we're going to do the drive-in movie theaters.
Jason Huddle 17:57
Yeah, I want to get back to that. Now. This is isn't really isn't anything new for you guys, because you've been doing it at Christmas time. During the lights festival, you open up for to watch Christmas movies. So it was a natural fit for you guys to have that area. And of course, it's an absolutely gargantuan jumbo-tron screen. I mean, you can't get bigger than that.
Greg Walter 18:19
You can probably see it from the space station.
Jason Huddle 18:20
Yeah, in fact, I think they can tune in from the space station, I think. But is that something that you think might happen? Even after all this is over that you guys might continue to do?
Greg Walter 18:35
It possible. Yeah, we realize that it's a business model that works. It took some fine tuning when, when you have, you're showing a movie, and it's your sole focus and you're charging admission. It's a different business model than, hey, it's part of something else. We show movies and so when you pay rights fees, that scale changes substantially when you're doing a drive-in movie. So it was, how do we keep our costs? How are we- How cost effective? We manage our costs and market and do things that make it a positive experience and a positive and good businesses. So we figured it out. We figured out the model, we unlocked the code and it's funny. Now it's a question of programming. What movies make sense? Do you do a guy's movie you know, a Die Hard or something like we did Days of Thunder.
Jason Huddle 19:28
Filmed at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Greg Walter 19:29
Filmed at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We're gonna do Princess Bride this week.
Jason Huddle 19:34
One of my absolute favorites
Jason Huddle 19:35
Well, I, I just think going back to something I alluded to earlier, we're desperate for entertainment. You know, in fact, I was just saying to my wife the other day I, I miss going to the movies, right? I miss the popcorn in the sitting in the seats in the big surround sound. I miss all that. You know, I was always a big movie guy anyway, so I just really miss it. And I remember during the baseball strike and '94 and I was sitting around when I was in college at the time, and I was sitting around with my roommate, and we're watching on ESPN. We're watching like the putt-putt championships or something like that, because there was nothing else on. That's how desperate we are. We've reached that level. So I'm thrilled that you guys are doing this kind of thing to help provide some entertainment.
Greg Walter 19:35
Great movie. I have not seen it in a long time. I forgot about the guy with six fingers. The promotion department had me do a little bit. And I forgot a line from the movie. But anyway, so I think we have something here, Jason, that makes sense. It's easy for us to do. Getting people in and out in a crowd of three, four or five 600 cars is really simple. For us, and we were able to pull it off very effectively. So yeah, you probably see more of that.
Greg Walter 20:48
It's just family fun. But now we wrestle with what kind of movies we should show - animated kid movies or we show movies from the 80's and 90's with a hot leading man. Or, you know, we realized that most ticket buyers are women. About 70%. We just assume that's mom. Hey, we're going to go out to the drive-in movie tonight.
Jason Huddle 21:07
You should do Top Gun because it's got everything.
Greg Walter 21:10
We've actually asked for Top Gun but because the Top Gun 2 is coming out, the studio won't release it. We've asked so we've addressed we've, we've gone through the list, I think kind of a fun meeting, hey, we're gonna have a meeting about movie selection. Everybody wants to be part of that. No absence of volunteers. They're awesome.
Jason Huddle 21:28
I'm sure you guys have lots of suggestions. And if you have a suggestion, you can email, [email protected] Anyway, Greg Walter, with Charlotte Motor Speedway, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. Man. I appreciate what you guys are doing out here at the park and in our community. And we certainly wish you the best and hope - hope to be actually able to see you in person at the fall races.
Greg Walter 21:49
I look forward to it, Jason and thank you for all you do for our community.
Jason Huddle 21:52
Absolutely. You guys. Stay tuned. We'll be back to close up the show in just a moment.
Jason Huddle 23:03
Things have been pretty intense on this show over the course of this summer just because of COVID and the subject matter. It seems like we're always talking about something very deep and sometimes divisive. We got a lot of feedback from the episode with this school board members a few weeks ago, on both sides, some people feel like some people weren't represented fairly. Other people said it was more than fair. What matters is that we are trying to come together as a community. And that's what the show is about. I said it during the interview with Greg and I meant it. I think that I agree with Pastor Dale Jenkins from New Hope. If we are going to get through this, somehow in the midst of this political climate and the differences of opinion on just about everything, including whether or not our children should be physically in the schools. We've got to find ways to come together. We've got to find ways to help each other Even if you don't agree with someone politically or philosophically or even theologically, it doesn't matter because everybody's human, we all deserve at least common courtesy. And it seems like that has gone out the window ever since the shutdown began, in my opinion. I'm sad to see that. So I hope that you will use this episode as inspiration to go find someone or something to be a part of to help to better our community. If we all did that, imagine what kind of a community we would have. And that's where I'll leave you. until next week, you've been listening to Up Front withCabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. I've been your host Jason Huddle. Until next week, Get out there in the trenches with Greg.