LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NASCAR's ambitious plan to build a temporary quarter-mile asphalt track inside Los Angeles's historic Memorial Coliseum for its February race will help to determine whether it can stage its events anywhere in the world, officials told Reuters.
NASCAR will break ground on the first-of-its-kind project on Dec. 20 and will hold its "Clash at the Coliseum" exhibition race on Feb. 6, the weekend before the Super Bowl is played in Los Angeles.
"It's an iconic venue," said project leader Patrick Rogers of the nearly century-old Memorial Coliseum.
"They've had Super Bowls, a World Series, the 1932 and 1984 Olympics, they're going to host track and field there again for the 2028 Olympics. So to be able to put ourselves on that list was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."
Successfully pulling off the feat will prove the stock car racing company, which has traditionally been most popular in the U.S. South, need not be landlocked.
"This is a test for us," Rogers said.
"Our international team thinks about how we might take NASCAR to other countries. There aren't that many already available race tracks in other countries but there are a lot of these big, big venues for soccer.
"So the idea came about, could we do an event like this and create a business model to not only host it again at the Coliseum and different markets in the United States but also go to other countries?"
EXCITING AND CHALLENGING
The man tasked with overseeing the building of the track, NASCAR President of Design and Development Derek Muldowney, called his job of coordinating contractors and the hauling in of 10,500 cubic yards of material, "exciting and challenging".
"If we're successful, and we're confident we will be successful, it's definitely something that can be replicated elsewhere," he said.
He stressed that racing fans in environmentally-conscious Los Angeles could rest assured that all the material used for the track would be recycled and disruption to the area would be kept to a minimum as his team worked over the holidays.
"We're very mindful of doing this as efficiently as possible," he said.
"We're just borrowing all that material for a few weeks and then giving it back to the construction industry to reuse."
Rogers said early indications were that NASCAR, which is at a crossroads as it tries to appeal to a younger and more diverse audience, was poised to make inroads with new fans in car-centric Southern California.
"Of the tickets sold to date, over 50% of those are going to be first-time attendees to a NASCAR race," he said.
"So it's kind of doing what we wanted it to do, which is take NASCAR into a big market, introduce it to a potential new fan, and deliver a high-level, incredible experience which can hopefully translate into long-term fans."
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; editing by Clare Fallon)