BY CHRIS MOWDER AND STEVE JONESchris@gotomyrtlebeach.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more here: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2014/05/13/4225338/myrtle-beach-speedway-spiffs-up.html?sp=/99/209/&ihp=1#storylink=cpyThe Myrtle Beach Speedway is spiffed up with new paint, small renovations and a beefed-up schedule of events for this year’s spring Harley-Davidson rally, but the biggest change also will carry over to the race season.
Speedway officials have removed 1,000 of the track’s bleacher seats and added a permanent stage where 3,500 to 4,000 people can hear live music after races. The concerts are the latest addition at the Speedway since new owners took over two years ago.
“We’ve always been a racetrack, but there’s only so much you can do with asphalt,” said Steve Zacharias, the track’s general manager. “We have 48 acres of land here, so we figure we might as well use it.”
The introduction of new activities at the Speedway kicks off this week, with a concert by rockers Buckcherry on Wednesday, as well as other events.
“It’s the beginning of all of it,” said Zacharias. “This should be a great season, and what better way to start it than with Bike Week.”
The new concert schedule is welcomed by at least one other live music venue and business interests along the Grand Strand. And some residential neighbors aren’t too disturbed at the thought.
Dennis Poirel, a two-year resident of Emerald Lakes, said noise from the Speedway has never kept him awake at night.
“After you hear it a while,” he said, “you don’t notice it.”
Poirel likened noise from the track to that of the jet aircraft that fly overhead on their approach to Myrtle Beach International Airport. It’s only when you occasionally notice the noise of jet or racecar engines that you even think of them.
Neighbor Lenwood Alston agreed that the noise is something residents have to learn to live with, but there are some nights he wishes things would quiet down earlier than they do at the Speedway.
Alston said he gets up at 4 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and it would be nice not to have to battle noise from the track to get to sleep.
“Sometimes I can’t stand it,” he said, “especially on weekends.”
Dawn Temples, marketing manager for the House of Blues, said representatives of the North Myrtle Beach club met recently with race track officials to discuss the two staging joint concerts.
They’ve been done in the past and could be part of the future, as well.
Temples noted the plethora of live music venues in the area, and said the House of Blues has worked with others as well.
“Everyone’s trying to maximize the summer,” she said of the Speedway’s plans.
According to Zacharias, creating a live music area at the track has been in the plans since current track CEO and NASCAR Experience founder Bob Lutz became co-owner in 2012.
“His dad had owned a couple racetracks in upstate New York and he’s always had concerts, so it’s something he’s always wanted to do and it’s something that’s familiar to him he knows that world,” said Zacharias.
While there’s a possibility of more special events in the future, current plans for the stage are to bring it up to speed gradually, integrating it as part of the Myrtle Beach Speedway experience.
“We’re trying to be us, but with a little added twist,” said Zacharias. “We’re going have our races and then a concert following the race as part of the whole fun of it ... not just the concert randomly by itself.”
Concerts are scheduled after races on June 21, July 3 and Aug. 2. A complete schedule of that and other events can be found at MyrtleBeachSpeedway.com.
“Concerts will attract attention and create publicity for the Speedway, giving visitors yet another entertainment option” said Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “The existing base of live entertainment (on the Grand Strand) has a strong foothold in the market, but the right type of entertainment, as well as affordable pricing and convenient scheduling could entice more visitors to the Speedway.”
TheSpeedway’s plans for this year’s Myrtle Beach Bikefest include biker-friendly events such as poker runs, NASCAR Experience ride-alongs, a custom bagger bike show, pole dancing contests, Rhett Rotten’s Wall of Death, an appearance by the Strip Club Choppers and the chance for bikers to ride their motorcycles around the speedway’s 0.538-mile asphalt track.
“It’s kind of a unique thing where you can come out and for $5 you can drive your bike around the track for six or seven laps. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Zacharias.
There will also be celebrity guests, including Michele Smith and Jay Barbieri, former hosts of SPEED Channel’s “American Thunder” and Discovery Channel’s “Two Wheel Thunder.”
On-the-track action during the event will include Wheels of Destruction stunt show on Wednesday, late model racing on Thursday, AMA Supercross racing Friday and Super Moto racing Saturday.
“We see this year as a building year for us [with live music]. We hope to do some local and regional bands and maybe even a battle of the bands or some things like that,” said Zacharias. “And then once we have everything in place and are ready to go, in 2015 we can put together an actual schedule with bands that will really turn some heads.”