Not all NASCAR fans motor to Phoenix International Raceway in an RV and live and dine in their vehicles. Thousands of race fans are packing East Valley hotels and restaurants this weekend.
And Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is gearing up for a big boost in the usual end-ofweekend crowd when the fans fly home.
“As a result of NASCAR, we expect a high volume of passengers departing from Sky Harbor, particularly Sunday night through Monday night, as many as an additional 30,000 each day,” said Deborah Ostreicher, deputy aviation director. That’s on top of a typical daily traffic volume of 100,000 passengers, she said.
Airport offi cials hope passengers learn the latest rules for carry-on baggage before they arrive to keep the place humming despite the boost in volume.
“One of the biggest problems is that people are still uncertain about what can and can not be carried on or packed. The (Transportation Security Administration) tells us that many people are attempting to bring large tubes of toothpaste with only a small amount in the tube. But the federal rules state that only tubes and bottles that hold 3 ounces or less will be allowed as carry-on,” Ostreicher said.
Local hoteliers are just as busy with race fans. They say many NASCAR visitors are willing to spend extra time on the freeway to enjoy more luxurious digs and an abundance of amenities.
“NASCAR is huge for us — almost two-thirds of the hotel for three nights. That’s 200 rooms,” said Tom Silverman, general manager of the Chaparral Suites Resort in Scottsdale. “And look how far away the track is — at least an hour.”
Tempe Mission Palms, a slightly shorter drive from the West Valley raceway, is booked solid for the weekend, and NASCAR fans are filling at least 50 to 100 of those rooms each night, said Chris Kenney, the hotel’s sales and marketing director.
“They enjoy Tempe because it has restaurants and shops and easy access to the race track,” Kenney said. “NASCAR fans are seasoned travelers. Many come in November and April. They spend mornings by the pool with a Starbucks and spend evenings on Mill (Avenue). They spend two or three nights here, and they love the weather.”
The East Valley gets a major economic boost from NASCAR, said Robert Brinton, director of the Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau. And many hoteliers don’t even know it, because they don’t ask leisure guests what brought them to the Valley, he said.
“Each time (Phoenix International Raceway) has a major race, our (hotel) occupancy spikes,” he said. “When PIR is full, so are we.”
Besides the racegoers who prefer the fancy hotels and gourmet eateries, plenty of visitors book rooms in the East Valley because they are displaced from other hotels by race fans.
That’s true of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in the Gila River Indian Community, said spokeswoman Kristen Jarnagin.
“Historically we haven’t received a huge horde of NASCAR visitors, but we get a lot of people from closer (to the track) hotels that are sold out,” Jarnagin said. “We are 98 percent sold out Saturday and Sunday, and quite a few of the guests are due to compression because of NASCAR.”
But the Sheraton wants first pick of race fans next year and has hired a sales rep that will focus on luring 2007 NASCAR visitors, she said.
The Pointe South Mountain Resort in Ahwatukee Foothills had to turn away possible NASCAR visitors this year because a big group from the U.S. Tennis Association has nearly all the rooms reserved, said Larry Colton, sales and marketing director.
But the November race has typically meant good business.“NASCAR has always been a strong demand generator,” Colton said. “There have been a lot of inquiries for this weekend, but we are full.”