ISM Raceway


Renaming ISM Raceway is more than a sponsorship deal – it’s a technology showcase that signals a new era for the racetrack.

By Tim O’Connor

Growing up in the Northeast, Jeff Hutchins remembers what it was like when the Philadelphia Phillies left their longtime home, Veterans Stadium, in 2004 for the new Citizens Bank Park. Something was lost in the transition. Veterans Stadium was a local icon for decades, but the corporate name of the new ballpark seemed detached from the community.

So when Hutchins, vice president of operations at ISM Connect, spearheaded his company’s acquisition of the naming rights to Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) he insisted on keeping the city’s name in the new logo. “To us, it was important ‘Phoenix’ was in the name,” Hutchins says. “We want to make sure that’s not lost in the space. You’re dealing with a local geography and a track that’s been around a long time.” ISM Raceway info box

In January, the change became official and the former PIR became ISM Raceway, and the logo features “Phoenix, Arizona” below the venue’s name. But the new name is only a small part of a much larger transition going on at the NASCAR and IndyCar racing host. The 54-year-old track is in the midst of a $178 million overhaul, the ISM Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar, that will wave the green flag on the start of a new era of racing in Phoenix.

The project includes new and renovated seats with unobstructed views that will bring the grandstand capacity to 45,000, and new escalators and elevators. There will also be premium RV parking, renovated suites, new concession stands and restaurants, ADA-compliant bathrooms, a new midway called the DC Solar Power Pavilion and a reconstructed infield with new fan experiences.

Equally impressive as the scope of the physical construction is the technological and network infrastructure ISM Connect is bringing to the project. Through better wireless service and new informational displays, Hutchins hopes fans will see how ISM Connect is bringing value to the racetrack and understand the name is more than a corporate sponsorship

ISM Connect was initially lukewarm when the raceway approached it about acquiring the naming rights to the venue. ISM Connect’s customers are typically venues in need of a robust wireless network that can enhance guest experiences. It doesn’t really have a B2C business the way most stadium sponsors do, limiting the marketing value of a traditional naming rights agreement. But when the conversation evolved to include the wider scope of what ISM Connect can offer, the company realized it could turn the raceway into a showcase for its technologies and capabilities.

“When they learned about what we had planned here, our desire to make this a tech-focused motorsports environment, that sparked a conversation about a deeper relationship we could have,” ISM Raceway President Bryan Sperber says.

“ISM Raceway in Phoenix is going to be the first full implementation for everything in the technology seat for ISM Connect,” Hutchins says. With the help of ISM Connect, the racetrack will become a premier motorsports destination for racing fans of all ages. The upgraded facility will feature complete Wi-Fi coverage within the bowl, infield and stands, allowing fans to connect to a complete race day experience through their mobile devices. “It’s not just the name, it really is ISM Raceway at that point,” Hutchins says.

As part of its involvement with the racetrack, ISM Connect is even building a second corporate headquarters at the venue, making the raceway and the company neighbors as well as partners. “That’s going to make it better and stronger for not only both companies, but for fans,” Sperber says.

Enhancing Experience

ISM RacewayWhen guests sign in to the track’s Wi-Fi, their phones will be redirected to a landing page for ISM Raceway that acts as a gateway to race day information. From the page, fans can browse a map of shops and food offerings, review the schedule of events and learn about opportunities to meet their favorite drivers and get an up-close look at the racecars. “If you give them that information you can tailor the experience so they are just not wandering around and will be able to enjoy it,” Hutchins says.

The better integration offered by ISM Connect’s technologies also create opportunities for new kinds of events. “Giving people a chance to touch the field helps connect them to the sport,” Hutchins says. “As we try to find cool and interesting things for people to do we have to let them know about it.”

Sperber says it’s been fun working with ISM Connect to discover new ways of engaging visitors through technology. “They’ve brought some interesting thinking on how to delight and entertain our guests and benefit our sponsors,” he explains.

Construction Coordination

ISM Connect’s technology offering will work in tandem with the upgraded fan experience made possible by the construction project. In addition to the mobile connections for phone users, the company will install hundreds of digital display screens around the venue to keep guests informed of upcoming events and activities. Connecting those screens to the network requires ample infrastructure improvements. To ensure those systems are properly put in place, ISM Connect became involved in the construction process, sitting in on meetings and placing a person on-site to oversee all the network-related work and influence the placement of cabling and technology centers.

In addition to Okland Construction, ISM Connect is working closely with DC Solar, the sponsor of the construction project, to set up mobile units that can power mobile lighting and digital screens during race weekends.

The cooperation and support of so many entities have helped the project stay on schedule and within its budget. A portion of the project, including some wireless features and the ISM Connect Canyon, an interactive entrance, will soft launch this spring at the TicketGuardian 500 and the Phoenix Grand Prix.

Everything should be in place by November, just in time for the Can-Am 500 race, part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the biggest race held at ISM Raceway each year. “Our goal at the beginning was to create this fully enabled Wi-Fi venue so we’re going to be able to check that box,” Sperber says.

Without ISM Connect’s support, the racetrack could not have created the active and strong Wi-Fi network to provide a cutting-edge guest experience. “It’s been exciting to have those handcuffs taken off and that the technology can support the creativeness we have on the tech side,” Sperber says.

 

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