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Cabarrus Magazine

Up Front Podcast Returns After Host's Bout with COVID to Talk About How CMS is Serving the Community

Feb 09, 2021 02:39PM ● By Jason Huddle

Host, Jason Huddle, returns to talk about all things Cabarrus after a bout with COVID-19 that kept him out of commission for a month. 

In this episode, many people think Charlotte Motor Speedway as the home of motorsports racing in this region, but, in light of the pandemic, they have been so much more to this community. This week, we speak with GM, Greg Walter, as he talks about what the Speedway is doing to serve this community in any way it can, including serving as a clinic for people to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. Plus, we discuss what's in store for the speedway in 2021!


Jason Huddle  00:00

Many people attribute the Charlotte Motor Speedway to simply being the home of motor sports in this region of lately. Their mission has been a little more humanitarian.

 

Greg Walter  00:09

Jason, I've been in sports three decades in around a lot of really cool events. I will tell you that that what we saw in motion in the garage was something like I've never experienced.

 

Jason Huddle  00:20

this week we talked to Charlotte Motor Speedway, GM, Greg Walter, as he lays out how the speedway has been serving the community, in light of the pandemic, but did Greg issue a challenge?

 

Greg Walter  00:29

I know they keep talking about calling Chick-fil-a, don't call Chick-fil-a call us we'll be happy.

 

Jason Huddle  00:34

The Gauntlet has been laid. Plus, plus we'll also talk to Greg about the Speedway's plans for 2021. That's coming up right now on upfront with Cabarrus Magazine a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Geico Concord Mills office, Level Up Realty and New Hope Worship Center. I'm your host, Jason Huddle. Hello, my friends and welcome back to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, Episode 90. And I am so thrilled to be back behind the microphone. First of all, I want to thank everyone for their emails and texts, social media posts, well wishes and phone calls that I received, because for those of you that don't know, I had COVID in January, which is why this is the first episode of the year, finally back in the studio and feeling much better. So thank you all for your support and your understanding. And certainly thank our sponsors for their patience and understanding that I had to be healthy before we could have a program. But we are back and today we are talking with Greg Walter from the Charlotte Motor Speedway, as a lot of you know, the speedway just like every other business in Cabarrus County, and the country for that matter has been hit hard. But that has not stopped them from serving this community. Last year they helped with COVID testing, and this year they are helping with COVID vaccinations. So we're going to talk to Greg about that process and moving forward if they're going to be doing that again, as well as what the future the speedway is right now, as we move into 2021. Hopefully there will be some relief. But what are the events looking like so far this year? So we're going to get into all that right after shameless plug time. Just a quick announcement to let you guys know that this year Cabarrus Magazine, the print edition is going by monthly just for this year, hopefully as we're working through the pandemic and our advertisers are working through making sure that they have enough money to survive. We wanted to help their budgets and ours as well. So we are going by monthly for 2021. Our first issue of the year will be hitting stands next week. So make sure you keep your eyes out for that and make sure that you visit Cabarrus Magazine.com because now more than ever, we're gonna make sure that we have new articles up constantly to keep you informed of what's going on with the community. And of course, keep listening to this program as well as it remains weekly as long as I don't get COVID again, I guess. And that's today's shameless plug time. Okay, stay tuned kids after the break. Greg Walter from Charlotte Motor Speedway. We'll be here on the line next.

 

Commercial  03:31


Jason Huddle  04:11

Welcome onto the program now Greg Walter he is returning guest. He is the Grand Poobah and chief executive over there at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Thank you so much, Greg, for coming onto the show. Once again,

 

Greg Walter  04:27

you know, I'm not sure chief Poohbah and Master of everything is the right Monique. I'm just one of many. Thank you for the activities, brother. I appreciate it.

 

Jason Huddle  04:36

So I want to get into the whole vaccine clinic thing and what you guys are doing there, we're gonna get there. But I kind of want to just recap and catch up with you for a second about the last time we talked. You know, we were in the middle of the shutdown. Everything was crazy, you guys were having to go through. We were trying to get some fans in the stands for some races. So tell me since we've talked last, you know, how did the rest of the season shape up as far as the race season, and then how did the the lights do tell me to just walk us through that.

 

Greg Walter  05:06

So the governor's order, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and the governor's order allow for 7% capacity. Right. And with a capacity of about 100,000, we were able to have 7000 people here for the race. And that was not a problem at all on Coke 600, we were close to it on on the Blue Cross Blue Shield race, on the external race on Saturday. And obviously, 7% was disappointing, because we had modeled so much about how we can put more people in the stands, but yet keep them safe. And we do all this rigorous protocol, to model an example of how you can get fans back in the stands. It was a great time, you know, some of our customer satisfaction surveys, we do a lot of surveying and data points on how do we do? Where's opportunities for growth? What things do we need to continue to emphasize? And what was interesting, Jason is that like 95% of the surveys came back saying, we had the right amount of protocols and safety and people felt safe. He didn't want any more. But they didn't want and less, so somehow we just hit that exact sweet spot. I think you and I talked about this after 911 there was a real push for us in the sports entertainment business to get visual cues of your safe, right. So it was a hand suit security screening, as you saw tactical teams, bag checks, lots of magnetometers, all these things that indicate you know what they're taking my safety seriously. Those same visual cues and storytelling needed to happen during the race. So there was lots of hand sanitizing stations, things very visual markers of yes, this is a different time. And the track is doing something to be sure that I'm having a safe experience. I will stay safe. That was heartening to get that back from from our fans. So the width of the race continued to work with the with the state and the local officials have been amazing. We're like tied to hip with the various Health Alliance in terms of trying to do things. The Christmas show, we knew that the train was coming. We knew this was going to be a big deal.

 

Jason Huddle  07:14

Well, yeah, it's like the only COVID safe event that you can do for the holidays. Right?

 

Greg Walter  07:18

Yeah, exactly. Well, we had no idea we were up more than 70% over a year prior believe it. If we stress my sleepless nights when people had a really long way. And if I tell you this, sometimes people think that you get along. Wait, we don't care about the fans, right? We don't care about our guests. But those were nice that we were really all of us were on the phone, those who are out here all working together, try to figure out how to make the experience better. And that was a stress point for us overall, and trying to warn people, right, if you know is going to be a two hour wait. At least let me know, at least literally mentally plan on that. Or maybe I'll come another night. The reviews, it was our best show. Yeah. In terms of the way the layout, the lights everything going on. We got national recognition for the light show in in Chicago, New York and LA. We had knowing that people did travel, we had people here from 48 states and the District of Columbia for the holidays, but all in that Jason at COVID safe fashion, right. So I think you were able to come out. I think you told me what time you were coming out and see the lights. And

 

Jason Huddle  08:29

I did.

 

Greg Walter  08:31

 It was it was a great show.

 

Jason Huddle  08:32

It was! And the VIP ticket was completely worth it.

 

Greg Walter  08:37

Good, I`m glad.

 

Jason Huddle  08:38

Got to skip a lot of that line, man.

 

Greg Walter  08:42

So we're looking now as to how do we continue to improve that experience. And it's heartening for us. When we're able to put something on it means something to somebody or impacts their life like the vaccine event. That's a real emotional win for us. That's one of the you know, Marcus talks about, you know, serving others Bruton when he founded a company that we work for the fans and I've said this before, when when your business model includes a servant's heart for you to truly put others ahead of yourself, you will never go home and as part of the lens and DNA we have here.

 

Jason Huddle  09:16

So that that's a perfect segway and you're absolutely right. About that, that mission. But that is a perfect segway, because last year you guys served, I believe, as a testing facility, right?

 

Greg Walter  09:29

Yes.

 

Jason Huddle  09:29

There was some testing going on, on around the Z max and Charlotte Motor Speedway. And now you have become a COVID vaccine clinic where people can drive through and get their shots. How is that working out so far? And what - I tell you what, let me let me ask you how that's working out so far. And then we're gonna cut to break and we'll talk about the process on the other side of it.

 

Greg Walter  09:52

It's working out great. We had a we were part of a mass vaccination event or POD point of distribution and we raised to inoculate 16,000 people in the course of three days, and it was it worked like a sewing machine. It was perfect. We didn't have wait time we adapted the partnership between us, Honeywell, Atrium Health, Tepper Sports Entertainment, you have, public private partnership that actually accomplished big things. And it has been we've gotten calls from from other states so that municipalities other venues, asking to see our playbook and that is a leadership position we welcome.

 

Jason Huddle  10:30

That is incredible. So like I said, we're gonna go to break real quick on the other side of it. I want to talk about what the process was for you to move so many people through to get their vaccines. And we'll talk about what's coming up for Charlotte Motor Speedway cool?

 

Greg Walter  10:45

Absolutely.

 

Jason Huddle  10:46

All right, you guys, stay tuned, we will be back. Right after these messages from our sponsors.

 

Commercial  10:51

 

 

Jason Huddle  12:03

Welcome back to the program joined here by Greg Walter gm of Charlotte Motor Speedway. I can't say the name of the speedway without pulling out the radio voice I can't help it.

 

Jason Huddle  12:22

So Greg has been we were talking before the break about the COVID vaccine, how you guys became a location where people could get the COVID vaccine very COVID safe because they could come they could just drive through and get the shots right there on the spot. What were some difficulties that you guys faced? In that process? There's some challenges.

 

Greg Walter  12:41

The challenges weren't insurmountable. And in First of all, we had we back up a bit. So over a year ago, almost two years ago, Jason, we had worked with canberras Health Alliance on and you're going to get chills up your spine will tell you this. They had the foresight to say what would a mass vaccine event look like? If we had all of a sudden vaccinate all these people, you know, theoretically Andromeda strain kind of, you know, sci fi thing? What would what would that playbook looks like so in January of last year, right before we all knew even could spell the word pandemic right. January of last year, we actually did a mock drill with Kabir southmont hands on what that would look like. So there was the architecture for a playbook already. And we were ready to go. When dairy is a damn chick who is the CEO of Honeywell and actually Tom Glick, who's president temper sports our team, we're taking a neighborhood walk, Derrick's was like we got we got to do more. We got to get this going. Because Jeanne Woods CEO of atrium health Jean, they are working with us we get involved. And in less than a week, we model plan out what a mass vaccination event will look like. playbook was still pretty much the same. Using the garages as base Honeywell leaned in with their technology, a lot of the ways to measure the KPIs. There were some software and back end stuff that made the transactions faster, the paperwork processing faster. You know, atrium health is one of the largest health care providers in the country. If you look at them on a on a global scale, and you they're really good at this mobile medicine, we partnered with them early last year to have one of the first mobile testing sites in the country at a sports venue. So we were already joined at the hip of atrium had been talking about this. So then the urgency came up because the state had had to get out these vaccines, otherwise they would lose their allotment. And it's kind of cool that you know that the state recognized look, let's go to people who are experts. You know, you have sports venues who are able to move people Very quickly, you have the healthcare provider, technology partner, all these people coming together to pull this off. So in less than a week, we were able to get the plan. Mike Tyson once said that every fighters got got a plan for the fight until the first punch lines. And you know, our plan was in place. When we realize what the first appointment being at 730 the first person showed up at 4:52am. They wanted to get their vaccines and they wanted to get in line early, even with appointment times. So we realized Friday morning, we had to open up another triage registration line, we needed to be ready that the first shot goes in the arm is 730. So that fence all the other stage gates had to be opened early. So registration is seven. So that the first needle going in arm was at 730. Once we did that, he was like a sewing machine. He was he was no weights other than other than you got to go here. I may wait two cars, but you were off the property, 45 minutes. And that included a 15 to 30 minute post shot monitoring session. So it was cool. Jason, I've been in sports, three decades, sports entertainment, been around a lot of really cool events. I will tell you that. That what we saw emotionally in the garage was something like I've never experienced people who were just you know, tears in your eyes, you could see behind the mask, you could see the God bless you. We love you guys. Thank you for all you're doing. I could hug my grandkids again, there was an emotional euphoria that I don't think anybody in the partnership anticipated. You know, you have doctors and nurses down. They're all kind of like, you know, they're high fiving each other like this is great. We had high energy music play. I mean, it was a show. But people the gravity of what we were doing that we can 16,000 North Carolinians getting the shot in a safe way in an effective way. Now they keep talking about calling chick fil a, I don't call chick fil a call us, we'll be happy.

 

Jason Huddle  16:58

The Gauntlet has been laid.

 

Greg Walter  17:00

We love chick fil a, but I just call us, we`ll be happy to help you.

 

Jason Huddle  17:04

So let me ask you as more vaccinations become available, is this something that the speedway plans to continue to do to help the community? Or was this just a one time a one off?

 

Greg Walter  17:15

We believe that we can serve a role on a large scale. Jason, I was actually modeling last night, we use the entire campus. We could actually do close to 31,000 vaccinations a day. That's incredible. Yeah, logistics, a lot of planning a lot things need to go into that. And but we have the capacity to be a mega site on a regional basis. Right? We're accessible to the Interstate, the city in the county, provide this wonderful infrastructure for people to get in and out quickly and I'll tell you this, shout out to the city of Concord and Cabarrus County, they were very quick to lean in and offer, you know, coordination, Emergency Management Services traffic that began to backup. We had some CPD officers out here, we would not be have the confidence to go into an endeavor like this if it wasn't for the city and the county who just just amazing partners on doing something like this.

 

Jason Huddle  18:14

That's wonderful news, man. Well, listen, we got about two minutes left. And so let's use those to talk about what is ahead for Charlotte, Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2021, do you guys anticipate that more fans will be allowed in some events this year? What are some of the things that you guys are thinking about to maybe make up for that?

 

Greg Walter  18:37

So yes, we do anticipate fans, but Coca Cola 600. And that weekend, we're working beginning conversations now with the state on what we anticipate capacities to be, what assurances that they need for us for protocols will be in place, we would love to see, you know, a much larger allowance for fans. We also have to evaluate events based on you know, what his viability is, in terms of, you know, can we have fans here. So things that are, that are on the short term that are up close, have to be evaluated, things like that we start next week with something called Jurassic Quest, which is a drive through dinosaur program show, right? So you drive through these life size dinosaurs, and your kids get to see him it's Jurassic Park, except everything's animatronics. But it's just really cool. experiences like that we'll continue to bring to the area because we were uniquely situated and have assets to be able to bring those for the concert space continues to be something that we're getting a lot of calls about, how do you do it on the big screen, you know, the largest gathering of people in the state of North Carolina. Since the pandemic story. We're actually at the Adrian brothers concert we had here in August, about 9000 people all in their cars to in the driving configuration and the track and it was it was a magical night. That got a lot of attention. around the country. And so being talked to by promoters about, you know, can we do this? Can we do that, utilizing some of the space to create, you know, other opportunities for music, entertainment. And so you'll begin to see some of those things come forth. And then anywhere, Jason we can utilize this 1000 acre property, to entertain, entertain people in a safe way to serve our community or serve the region that we can uniquely do. So anyway, we're, it's as my Marine Corps friends have an expression of saying Semper Gumby always out here, Semper Gumby actually when my guys gave me a Gumby doll, we're taking in a date of time being very nimble, looking forward and planning as best we can. Depending on who you talk to some people say it's a q3 q4 relief, other people will say it's a 22 relief. So we're being aggressive in trying to lead the way as best we can. That was more than two minutes sorry.

 

Jason Huddle  21:00

That was fine. Thank you very much, Greg Walter, gm of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us. Tell us what's going on out there at the speedway. And thanks for serving the community in the way that you guys are.

 

Greg Walter  21:12

Jason thanks for all you do for ours as well, your big impact and you're great storyteller for the goodness that's going on here. Thank you.

 

Jason Huddle  21:19

I appreciate it, you guys hang back. We will close out the program right after these messages. Stay tuned.

 

Commercial  21:24

 

 

Jason Huddle  22:05

As we close out the program today, I just want to thank Greg Walter once again for being on the program and for Charlotte Motor Speedway and all those who have served on the frontlines during this pandemic. I know we're not through it yet. But I kind of feel like we're starting to turn the corner just barely, just barely. But I feel like we're starting to turn the corner. And I certainly want to extend my deepest appreciation for everyone who is out there. On the front lines, I know that next week, we're going to be talking about Atriums virtual hospital. The reason why we're going to talk about this is because I was a patient at the virtual hospital. I think this is a great resource and because of that I had an opportunity to have some one on one discussions with some paramedics, with doctors who were serving people who have COVID. And they're face to face with them and they're dealing with these people every day. And I was so appreciative of their willingness to do that and get me well as soon as possible. So that is going to be next week's discussion and I certainly hope you will join us for that. Once again you have been listening to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine a presentation of CabCo Media Group. It is sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Geico Concord Mills office, Level Up Realty and New Hope Worship Center. It is produced and hosted by yours truly Jason Huddle until next week better get over that fear of needles.

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