Kansas City, Kan. – Kansas Speedway kicks off its tenth season with new leadership at the facility.
The track's former president, Jeff Boerger, is now in charge of the casino development immediately outside the speedway. His successor, Pat Warren, takes over the speedway operation at a time when auto racing's fan interest has leveled off.
The first big show under new speedway president Pat Warren takes place this weekend. The Indy car drivers will gather for Saturday's 300-mile race, the marquis weekend event that also features NASCAR trucks on Sunday.
Warren was hired by the speedway from the telecommunications business a few years ago. He was vice-president of marketing and sales before taking over as president of the track last month.
Warren is keenly aware of the challenges that await him. Among them, the future of Indy car racing at Kansas Speedway.
"One thing we've got to look at following this race weekend is how Indy car fits into our schedule for 2011, and we're in the preliminary stages of those discussion right now. It's something that both sides have to work on and figure out how it works," says Warren.
A second NASCAR Sprint Cup date at Kansas Speedway looms for 2011. And Warren knows that there have been more empty seats at NASCAR races lately around the country that have not been seen in several years.
"You know sports can only grow so fast before they reach a critical mass. Then something has to happen and that's some of the growing pains you're seeing right now with NASCAR. I feel good about how we're positioned to solve those and move forward," says Warren.
Warren has already made an impact at the speedway with this year's ticket plan. Until this year, if someone were interested in attending NASCAR's Sprint Cup race in the fall, they'd have to buy essentially a season ticket to watch Indy cars in the spring and the NASCAR races in the fall. That would cost at least $200 per season ticket.
This year a season ticket is available at a cheaper price. Plus, for this weekend's races only, a ticket can be purchased for around 50 bucks. According to Warren, ticket sales for the Indy car race are comparable to the number of tickets sold in previous years, which he says is encouraging.
" Given the global economical challenges that we're facing when I say global' I mean our country, not literally global the broader economic challenges that we're facing and the challenges that all discretionary income items are facing, we feel very, very good about where we are," says Warren"
Warren's ability to convince the speedway's board of directors to separate the ticket packages does not come as a surprise to one of his former colleagues. Richard Konzem and Pat Warren worked together in the athletics department at the University of Kansas. Konzem cites Warren's ability to form a consensus.
"Clearly in student government and if you're in politics, even on the campus, you've got to have a very good ability to articulate your point and to do your best build consensus and bring all those things together. Pat's clearly very good at thinking and speaking on his feed and getting his point across," says Konzem.
Konzem is now athletics director at Rockhurst University. While working at KU, Warren also envisioned himself as a future athletic director. But now, instead, he's behind the wheel of the biggest entertainment draw in the state of Kansas at Kansas Speedway.