The NASCAR Hall of Fame, which celebrated its first anniversary Wednesday, said it has attracted 274,000 visitors since opening – second only nationwide to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority stressed the positives about the city-owned hall at its monthly meeting, and said the hall has been a boost to the city’s hospitality industry.
But the hall is still losing money.
The hall lost $184,672 in March, on attendance of 15,881, according to the CRVA. That brings the hall’s loss in the first nine months of the fiscal year to $1.33 million.
Before the hall opened, the CRVA projected a nearly $800,000 surplus. But with attendance lower than projected, the CRVA has slashed more than $4 million in expenses.
The CRVA projects the hall will finish the year with a deficit of $1.29 million. That means the hall is projected to break even for the months of April, May and June.
The authority plans to use its $3.4 million reserve fund to cover the deficit. If losses continue, the CRVA would likely have to ask the Charlotte City Council for money from its tourism tax reserves.
The CRVA and the city have said that general fund tax dollars won’t be used.
Winston Kelley, the hall’s executive director, said the baseball hall’s annual attendance is 281,000.
He said the hall’s unaudited attendance for its first year shows 274,000 visitors, though that number includes roughly 12,000 people who visited in January during a free open weeklong open house.
“Our staff remains bullish,” Kelley said during the CRVA meeting.
Derick Close, CRVA board chair, was also optimistic. He said the hall’s first-year attendance projection of 800,000 is “behind us,” and he said he expected the hall to do well in upcoming years.
CRVA board members said the hall has put the city on the map, and helped fill hotel rooms and attract conventions. They said CRVA staff should start comparing the hall’s attendance with other sports halls nationwide.
The CRVA also released March financials for Ovens Auditorium and Bojangles Coliseum, two city-owned venues managed by the authority.
For the first nine months of the fiscal year, Ovens and Bojangles have combined to lose about $695,000. The city of Charlotte provides a subsidy of $597,000 for the two buildings for the year.
In response to the deficits, the CRVA has made all Ovens and Bojangles employees take a 10 percent pay cut and a one-week furlough between February and the end of the fiscal year in June.
NASCAR Hall of Fame attendance
April 20,618 **
* includes nearly 12,000 visitors who came during a free open house
** unaudited numbers