The National Hot Rod Association is coming to Baytown for a weekend of loud engines, fast cars and exuberant fans.
It also means local commerce will have a weekend to expect some positive dividends thanks to potentially 40-50,000 people per day coming to the area today through Sunday to take in the sights and sounds of the Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil as it hosts the 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil.
According to Mark Miller, public affairs director for the City of Baytown, if approximately 120,00 spectators come starting today for the pre-race festivities and Sunday, the “direct and indirect and induced effects” could total approximately $22 million in commerce from the SpringNationals being in town.
Even though some of the spending trends are going down, local hotels can still see some effects of the race coming to town.
“It does have an impact, but it’s not like it used to be, it’s slowing down, but it does impact how we handle business,” Sanjay Gandhi, general manager of Hampton Inn Houston/Baytown said. “We see about 20 percent more bookings on this weekend. It used to be that we would double up. It’s because of the rising costs, it’s going down in terms of the impact on bookings. It’s now because of the costs, people can’t be here three of four days and enjoy the race. Now they just come to watch the race and are done.”
Iguana Joe’s restaurant in Mont Belvieu takes advantage of the yearly need of people to eat and more persons in the areas means potentially more mouths to feed.
“We get really, really packed on Friday, Saturday and on Sundays we get the rush after the race,” Jorge Martinez, manager of Iguana Joe’s, said. “We have a big restaurant and we added a whole new section for the past two years so people don’t wait that long even on our busiest nights. The wait should be at max 20 minutes for parties of eight or less and for bigger parties, 30-40 minutes. We will have more wait and kitchen staff and bartenders so we can rotate them in faster.”
He said that the restaurant usually pulls in a 17-25 percent bump in revenue on each day.
The raceway also increases its staff to handle the wave of race enthusiasts descending on the track.
“Any good, normal weekend we have 20 to 30 workers and this weekend we will have 375 employees,” Seth Angel, executive vice president and general manager of the raceway park, said. “It’s a large-scale operation and it takes a lot of planning, a lot of organization. We get the right people and the power and the tools to be as efficient and as organized as they can.”
Providing a weekend job for hundreds of extra employees just kickstarts what this event does for the area as many will make some extra monies helping parking cars, accommodate top luminary club quests, aiding in food and beverage services, security, traffic control, track operations and EMS and rescue.
“There are a number of responsibilities that have to be done,” Angel said. “We want that when you show up it seems effortless. We want our fans to come out and enjoy their days and not know what we are doing behind the scenes.”
In terms of local response, the city of Baytown is always happy to see race weekend.
“It’s a very positive impact, we welcome the race and are happy to have it here,” Miller said.
Tracey Wheeler, the City of Baytown Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, says that the race creates an immediate influx of activity within the area,
“It has a major impact on the area especially with the hotels and the restaurants are filled for the entire weekend,” Wheeler said. “In addition, I am sure the family do some other recreational activities in the area because some stay for the full week.
“If people don’t get their rooms months ahead of time, they have to stay outside the community. Historically, hotels sell out early. We certainly value the business the raceway park brings to our community. It does add a lot of money to the economy. We are lucky to have them.”