With a desire to offer the best fan experience in all of motorsports, Gateway Motorsports Park has taken a unique step to find out what fans want to see improved at GMP.
Gateway, which hosts NHRA, INDYCAR racing and a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event, worked with Maryville University to determine a wide range of questions to ask the most important person that steps foot on track property: the fan.
Gateway first conducted a survey following its 2017 INDYCAR events and had worked with the NHRA on general surveys about race day experience, but Owner and President Curtis Francois and his team wanted a survey that the fans could complete right after a major event.
“After we saw feedback from our 2017 survey, we knew we should do more surveys for our events,” said Francois. “We want the fans to have a voice. Many are very loyal and email at least once a month. We got a lot of ‘thank yous’ from our fans for allowing their voice to be heard and ideas processed.”
The goal of the surveys? Not only to determine what Gateway Motorsports Park does well, but to take a look at what they need to improve so that fans attending an event at GMP can have the best race day experience in motorsports.
“The surveys gave us a direct line to know what the fans are thinking about Gateway,” Francois said. “We are not afraid of criticism. We want the truth and to be able to fix problems. Anything we can control, we’ll fix. Our fans are some of the most loyal in racing, and at Gateway, the grassroots fan rules. We want to make sure our spectators have as good an experience at Gateway as at another facility.”
Among the major points that the fan surveys took the leadership at GMP was that spectators wanted simplicity when it came to seating levels and pricing.
“Our premium seats that are located right at the start-finish line are now checkered, while our general admission seats are gray. It’s much easier for the fans to distinguish between seating levels. General admission is gray on our seating map because it’s a gray bench seat. It’s very user and fan friendly. The fans can look at our map and see the different colors, which correspond to a different price and purchase what they want.”
Purchasing tickets was another big item that the fans brought to Francois’ attention through the surveys.
“We gave our fans options with ticket packages, including our new checkered-flag club,” said Francois. “We noticed that the majority of fans who buy seats in our checkered-flag area were buying every add-on possible.”
With the addition of the checkered-flag club, instead of having to buy a seat and wait for upgrades to come out at a later date, fans may purchase everything from parking, a grandstand seat and upgrades all with one click.
It was not an overnight process for Gateway Motorsports Park to redevelop its seating levels and ticket packages. It took time for the track leadership to figure out the best way to package everything, but Francois believes it has been a hit.
“This year, we were able to finalize a seating layout for INDYCAR and NASCAR and lock things down to make a great ticket package for the fans,” said Francois. “In the first two years, it was a bit of a puzzle to figure things out. Fans love having a chance to buy things in bulk and not only get the best deal, but also get a wider seat this year. The response has been great.”
One of the final changes to GMP was moving the video screen more than 300 feet closer to the grandstands, so that the fans can have a better look at the on-track action.
Francois and company worked with Screenworks during its second INDYCAR event in 2017 to take measurements of the boards and look at locations. Four weeks later, the Screenworks team finalized a location for a screen that moved closer to the start-finish line.
“All of our video boards are portable,” Francois said. “We used a lot of trial and error and spent ample time with the Screenworks crew analyzing the decision.”
An avid NASCAR fan is probably wondering if Gateway Motorsports Park has its eye on receiving a date on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
While coy on the subject, Francois and his team have seen that Gateway can host successful events at the highest level. Whether it’s an INDYCAR event with 40,000 fans or a sold-out NHRA event, the St. Louis community supports all types of motorsports, including the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event that takes place at GMP each year.
“Certainly, if a Cup race came to Gateway, we would be able to host it,” said Francois.
Francois and his team refuse to settle and have a “can’t stop, won’t stop” attitude when it comes to making Gateway Motorsports Park one of the best facilities in the country.
“Every day, I come to my office at GMP and take personal pride in making sure that the facility is as good as it can be. We’ve become a trendsetter with renovations and upgrades because we never stop. I drive the facility, talk to our fans and stakeholders. We listen and implement changes that address any concerns. The net effect of that, over seven years I’ve owned Gateway, has been that we are setting the trend right along with the biggest facilities in the country. We have local ownership and a great relationship with fans and media. We want the track to be the best it can be. That’s the driving force behind the improvements. We will do what it takes.”