AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Saturday morning marked the first day in the renovation of one of the Phoenix area's most prized possessions, The Phoenix International Raceway.
The Phoenix International Raceway held a special ceremony to officially break ground on the Phoenix Raceway Project. The project is part of the track's second annual “Prix View” Testing event for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The ceremony featured Jay Frye, president of competition and operations at IndyCar, and Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet for Team Penske in the Verizon IndyCar Series, along with many local officials.
The Phoenix Raceway Project is a $178 million dollar project that intends to transform the raceway into a more exciting and fan-friendly environment.
“This whole project has existed on paper for many many years. Today it’s going to become a reality,” said Bryan Sperber, president of Phoenix International Raceway.
This project is designed to give the fans a more friendly experience, but also to help further the economic success of the community.
“The economic success that comes from a race weekend to the West Valley of Maricopa County is unbelievable and we appreciate everything Bryan and his entire team has done to make this racetrack what it is today," said Steve Gallardo, Maricopa County supervisor.
“It’s a $170 million project that is going to bring so much attraction to the West Valley and make the race experience so much better. I can imagine the amount of people that are going to be racing to Maricopa County jut to enjoy the race track,” he continued.
The Phoenix Raceway and the city of Avondale have long had a long relationship. This project will prolong that relationship and it will also expose more of the world to the small city of Avondale.
“We are a city of 83,000 people, and anytime you can bring in 100,000 to 150,000 people into our community for three races a year and can show them our people, you can let them know what our hospitality is about, and you can introduce the city. There is nothing more valuable to us than that,” said the mayor of Avondale, Kenn Weise.
“Avondale and Phoenix Raceway have grown up together, and we’re glad that P.I.R., Bryan and his team have decided to invest $178 million in our community,” he continued.
The Phoenix Raceway Project for many people brings up old memories, but officials are excited for the raceway's new look.
“Arizona is going to have the most exciting and beautiful raceway in in all areas, in all the U.S. It’s going to make this an awesome place to not only the fans but to everyone watching on TV… It’s nice being able to see the races from inside the track from the difference of when I was seven years old on top of that mountain. I was born and raised 2.5 miles from this track and it’s a beautiful thing,” said Arizona state senator Lupe Contreras.
Castroneves was given the honor being the first to break ground.)
“Normally they tell me not to break things. This is the first time they tell me to break things,” he said.
The opportunity meant a lot to Castroneves because the Phoenix Raceway is where he started his short oval career.
“The first time I came to Phoenix, it was my first short oval ever. Its special, this place, for me. Phoenix is an amazing place, I’ve been coming here for so many years and to see the progress that coming all the way here is incredible.” he said.
After getting a sense of the power from the excavator, Castroneves couldn’t help but imagine what he could do to his fellow competitors.
“With that machine, I will do some great damage to my competitors. It won’t be fast, but I don’t think anyone will finish.”
The new raceway is set to open in November 2018.