By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
The track is tearing down the old control tower and putting a new one in its place.
It's a sign of the times. The old tower was finished back in the eighties, about the same time as ESPN and the internet, to say nothing of live webcasts and wireless connections. That new technology is forcing a new tower.
It takes just a single afternoon to tear down the race control tower. It's stood for two decades--longer than just about all the records the tower has witnessed.
"It's a real bittersweet thing," says Gainesville Raceway Executive General Manager Don Robertson. "All of us that have been around here for a long time have a lot of memories of this. This is one of the first of a new genre of tower/tower suite race control type buildings."
Robertson says over the years space has become a premium, especially at the big events like Gatornationals. The new tower will be three stories tall instead of two and will have the latest technology to allow for instant updates on driver's times and other information. Though there's about the same amount of floor space in the new tower, there's no more corporate suites because of sky-boxes installed above the grandstand this year. But Robertson's especially excited about the design which will be distinctive to this track.
NHRA owns the track and is picking up the $2.4 million price tag. The new tower will house race control, the press and Robertson's offices.
"It's been getting tougher each year," says Robertson. "The only thing that makes this year a little more bearable was knowing we had this in the works. Everybody kind of bit the bullet and got through one more year, really looking forward to the new tower."
He adds the new tower will free up some space for fans to walk around between the stands and the pits. He hopes to be up and running by February 1st... more than a month before Gatornationals 2008.
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