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Q and A with Winston Kelley

by Mark Peres

August 6,2007

How’s the job?

I love it. I loved my career at Duke, but I have no regrets about leaving. This is my dream job. I’m one person on an extensive team that is bringing a great vision to life. I’m working with an impressive group of city officials and staff, NASCAR executives, architects, designers, CRVA colleagues and so many others who have point on different aspects of a complex, multifaceted project.

How are you spending your time?

My time is divided between the building, exhibits, operational planning and planning for sponsorship sales and marketing the Hall. I am involved in various meetings with the architects, designers and construction team. I’m working with Leslie Horne, our Sales and Marketing Manager, to finalize an agreement with a company that will help us secure sponsorships. I’m traveling to other museums and exhibit halls to learn as much as we can. I’m working with the CRVA team and our NHOF team to develop an overall schedule of operational aspects, from food service, event booking and management, maintenance to finance, marketing and public relations. I’m also working with Buz McKim, our Historian, and the exhibit design team on content development and how we tell the story of NASCAR to appropriately honor its history and heritage. We’re working with Gina Hight, the CRVA’s Senior Director of Marketing and NASCAR, developing a website and beginning to work on longer-range staffing plans. It’s both strategic and tactical work every day.

Tell us about the project.

The project is more than just the Hall of Fame. It includes the expansion of the Convention Center that will include a new 2500 seat ballroom, an office tower being developed by Lauth Properties and NASCAR that is now 19 stories and 390,000 square feet, a public plaza, and a 1000 spot underground parking garage that will serve the office tower and the Hall. The city will own the convention center expansion and the Hall, both of which will be operated by the CRVA. The Hall is operated under a licensing agreement from NASCAR. It’s like 3 different families building 3 different houses with a common driveway and a shared garage.

How’s it coming along?

The City of Charlotte is responsible for overall construction and building project management and doing a good job coordinating everything. The design of the building for the Hall is approximately 90% complete. Pei Cobb Freed & Partners is designing the building. They did the original renderings and also won the bid for the actual architectural planning. The exhibits and exhibit concepts are roughly 25% designed. Ralph Appelbaum Associates is leading the exhibit design work. They both have offices in the same building in New York and have worked on several projects together. The NASCAR office tower should open around May 2009. The Hall and the convention center are scheduled to open in the 2nd quarter of 2010.

How close will the actual Hall look to the initial circulated renderings?

Pretty close. There may be some changes. We are still evaluating things like the water feature that was in early designs. Landscaping may change slightly as we go through the process, but not noticeably. We believe we can build the ribbon that circles the building and do it within the overall scope of the project estimates. We are still evaluating the slots in the ribbon as some renderings show. That’s another element the team is very interested in keeping and we remain optimistic we’ll be able to do so. To light the ribbon to create an iconic effect on the skyline, we will need sponsorship that we will be pursuing in the months ahead. The architects are very aware that this is a public building, and they are working to create an inviting and multifunctional public plaza and space. Interior allocation of space is in design as we balance different uses.

What should visitors to the Hall expect?

When a guest purchases a ticket, they will be guided to a 250 seat surround-sound theatre to watch a 12-13 minute film about the history of NASCAR. The theatre will be designed to bring the sights, sounds and energy of NASCAR to life, and will be the best place to watch a race other than the racetrack itself. From there guests will enter a great hall – what the architects are calling the Times Square of NASCAR – with multiple interactive exhibits. From there guests will go the 2nd level that we call “Glory Road,” which will go from a flat straightaway to a 36 degree embankment, annotating different racetracks from Lowes to Bristol. A Hall of Honor that showcases inductees in the Hall will be at the top of the ramp on the 2nd level. The 2nd level will also include a race week experience and the 3rd level will have 3 pods of exhibits showcasing 3 different eras of NASCAR. A terrific team is working to create a great experience for fans, visitors and Charlotte residents.

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