The NASCAR Hall of Fame lost $1.6 million last year, but the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority said it believes the racing museum’s financial performance is improving.
“We aren’t there yet,” said CRVA chief executive Tom Murray. “But we think we have stabilized.”
The hall was paid for by a special 2 percent tax on hotel and motel rooms in Mecklenburg County. The hall’s loss is paid from other CRVA funds, which come from additional hotel/motel taxes and a 1 percent prepared food and beverage tax.
The CRVA manages city of Charlotte-owned venues such as the Convention Center, Bojangles Coliseum and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Murray said the CRVA overall finished in the black by $2.8 million, even after accounting for the hall’s operating loss.
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The hall’s operating loss was $900,000, which was paid for by CRVA reserves. But the larger $1.6 million deficit includes so-called “accrued debt” — mostly to pay off construction loans and royalties to NASCAR. That “accrued debt” hasn’t been paid.
Hall attendance in its first year was 272,000 people. That fell to just under 198,000 in year two and then roughly 177,000 in the fiscal year that ended in June. Attractions like the hall often suffer attendance declines after opening, but then usually stabilize in year four.
Murray said the CRVA is focusing not so much on attendance, but on getting visitors to spend more on secondary purchases such as simulator rides and audio-guide tours.
In the past, the CRVA made unrealistic budgeting expectations about how the hall would do. Since Murray arrived in late 2011, he has tried to make more realistic budgeting projections.
For the last fiscal year, hall operating revenues were $6.3 million, ahead of the $6 million budget. Expenses were $300,000 lower than budgeted.
The hall lost about $1.4 million in its first year. The second-year loss was $900,000.
But Murray said the second-year loss could have been greater. Under the previous CRVA administration, the tourism authority had removed roughly $300,000 in overhead costs from the hall and assigned them to other CRVA properties. That made the hall’s financial picture look better than it actually was.