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NASCAR Hall of Fame capitalizes on tourists

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NASCAR and auto racing is big business in North Carolina, especially in the Charlotte area.

"It's a $6 billion a year industry in North Carolina, of which, $4.5 billion of that is right here in the Charlotte area," said Winston Kelley, the head of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Many consider this part of the country as the birthplace of stock car racing and the sport is a part of the community.

"Over 85 percent of the NASCAR teams in the top three divisions are based right here," said Kelley. "Over 25,000 employees are employed in motorsports alone. They've got an average salary in excess of $70,000."

It’s no surprise then that when NASCAR was considering where to build its hall of fame Charlotte was a contender.

"NASCAR put out an RFP (request for proposal) and five cities competed for it, back in 2005 and early 2006," Kelley.

Charlotte was selected to be the host city for the hall of fame and the 150,000 square foot attraction opened in 2010.

"It's a very logical place and we are thrilled with the partnership that we have," said Kelley.

It was the shared history between Charlotte and NASCAR that was one of the key components but proximity to the major players today and hundreds of thousands of tourists also were big selling points.

"The NASCAR industry being based here, the fact that we could be a substantial enhancement to the hospitality industry," said Kelley.

In setting up both the place of honor for hall of fame members and the rest of the exhibit space those in charge knew they needed to serve two segments of the population.

"You're wanting to speak to those who have been around this sport forever and those who are new," said Kelley.

Nobody wanted this to be just a place of static displays.

"We've got over 50 hands-on interactives, so we're much more than just a car museum," said Kelley.

The hall of fame has been open only a short time but already has established itself as a stop to make for people visiting Charlotte.

"If we look at the people who have come to Charlotte for the primary purpose of visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame, they've spent over $55 million in this market," said Kelley.

Going forward, exhibits and features will be changed from time to time but the underlying purpose for the hall of fame will remain a constant.

"Continue to honor the history and heritage of NASCAR, but also continue to be an economic driver into the Charlotte market," said Kelley.

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