Ben Kennedy couldn’t deliver a victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 250 on Friday night at Kansas Speedway, but that did not dampen the Mother’s Day weekend for his mom, Lesa France Kennedy.
They got to spend much of it in Wyandotte County.
It may seem odd for Kansas City, Kan., to hold a special place in the heart of the first family of NASCAR and residents of Daytona Beach, Fla. But it does.
“It’s near and dear to us,” said France Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corp..
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So dear that the success of Kansas Speedway and the surrounding Legends Outlets Kansas City is serving as a model for similar development in Daytona Beach.
One Daytona is an $812 million mixed-use development rising across from Daytona International Speedway, which is undergoing a $400 million renovation known as Daytona Rising.
Seeing what has worked in the Kansas City area serves as inspiration in Florida, and France Kennedy has detailed knowledge of the process. She was here from the outset.
As an ISC executive, France Kennedy worked with Jeff Boerger, then Kansas Speedway president and now president of Kansas Speedway Development Corp., along with former Mayor Carol Marinovich of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., and former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves.
On some of those trips from corporate headquarters in Daytona Beach, young Ben Kennedy would accompany his mom, and he remembers the emptiness of the intersection of Interstates 70 and 435.
“I’ve pretty much seen it from bare land to development to watching races to now getting to race here,” he said.
The track opened in 2001. The retail — anchored by Cabela’s and Nebraska Furniture Mart — hotels and restaurants sprang up around the track. Hollywood Casino and the other sports venues — CommunityAmerica Ballpark and Sporting Park — were built over the next decade.
Two years ago Cerner opened the first of its two-office building campus at Village West.
“It’s a model for destination-type development,” Boerger said. “It was a matter of creating something that not only we were proud of but something the whole community could be proud of.”
Boerger is overseeing One Daytona.
“He’s excellent with development, and his background and experience here (at Kansas) really helps,” France Kennedy said.
The Sprint Cup driver who lives closest to the Legends marvels when he visits. Clint Bowyer of Emporia, Kan., didn’t need to be anywhere else on Thursday evening.
“I went to The Legends and shopped,” Bowyer said. “Where else can you go to a track and do all these things in a day’s time during a little bit of a rain delay? There was some down time and you can enjoy yourself all within walking distance of here. Great racetrack, great facility.”
That’s the idea in Florida. One Daytona has lined up Bass Pro Shops, a Marriott property and a multiplex theater, and in March made another area City connection by making Kansas City-based RED Legacy its lead development consultant.
RED Legacy developed Legends Outlets and has several properties in its portfolio, including, 1.2 million-square-foot CityScape Phoenix in Arizona, and several in the Kansas City area.
“We’ve known them, we’ve had a relationship with them,” France Kennedy said. “It’s a first-class operation.”
Daytona International Speedway is host to NASCAR’s most prestigious race, the Daytona 500 in February, and starting next year fans will enter a renovated track with the backstretch seating removed and frontstretch seating redeveloped.
Fewer total seats, but more amenities with wider seating and more restrooms and concession stands will improve the fan experience, and as the sport’s flagship venue, Daytona deserved no less.
“It absolutely has to be first class, a top-notch racetrack,” France Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of history there, but you can’t rest on your laurels.”
Racing at Daytona has continued through the construction. One Daytona is projected to open in late 2017. But as Kansas knows, race weeks are only part of the equation.
“It goes back to the guest experience,” France Kennedy said. “If we can bring guests in and entertain them for a longer period of time when they’re attending the races, you have a better chance of them coming back when there’s no racing.”
A formula that has worked in Kansas City for several years.
“We were at the right place at the right time here,” France Kennedy said. “Looking back on it, the overall experience was so good, and as I wear my NASCAR hat and my business hat it’s what we we’re trying do in Daytona.”
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.