American Seating Off To The Races

May 7, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Fifty NASCAR fans can sit especially pretty now when they settle in to watch a race at Dover International Speedway, the high-banked, one-mile super speedway in Dover, Del., known as the Monster Mile.

Saturday’s unveiling of the raceway’s DuPont Monster Bridge was of special interest to Grand Rapids’ own American Seating Co.

The Monster Bridge is a glass enclosed, climate controlled, 50-seat luxury suite that extends 29 feet over the racetrack, placing fans closer to the center of the action.

In manufacturing the suite’s 50 theater-style seats, American Seating helped create what speedway planners refer to as “the most exciting seat in sports.”

The whole idea is to give fans a one-of-a-kind experience, said American Seating spokesman Michael Zalewski.

“American Seating is part of that experience and it gives the company an opportunity to show the rest of NASCAR how their premium seating can be used,” he said.

For the Monster Bridge project, American Seating customized its “premium” Spirit chair to include an armrest holder for a closed circuit radio scanner, which permits fans audio access to race team communications. The company embroidered the seats with the Monster Mile logo, as well.

The Monster Bridge seating area also features flat-screen TVs and wall-to-wall carpeting. Dover International will host its first NASCAR race of the season over the weekend of June 4 – 5.

Construction on the Monster Bridge began in February and American Seating installed the seats just a couple of weeks ago, Zalewski said.

The company didn’t have to go looking for the work or vie with other seating companies for the contract.

Dover Motor Sports approached American Seating directly, said Anne Saliers, manager of the sports and entertainment market.  

Although the raceway has other luxury suites, the Monster Bridge now boasts the best seats in the house and the most premium seating available at Dover International.

Saliers said the Monster Bridge is the first of it’s kind.

“It’s a bridge structure that actually spans the track. No other track has this type of sight line to offer spectators. It sits just 29 feet above the track. In the third turn you see the cars coming straight at you down the back stretch and go right underneath you into the third turn.”

Saliers said she believes the customized seating in the Monster Bridge represents a first for the industry, as well. 

American Seating’s first raceway project was suite seating for the Indianapolis Speedway in 1954. But the Dover project was its first for a NASCAR race venue, Saliers observed. 

The Monster Bridge project, however, opens up a whole new niche for the company because the demand for premium seating at NASCAR racetracks is increasing.

“NASCAR is the fastest growing sport in America,” Saliers said. “We are seeing the demographics increasing, and the sophisticate NASCAR fan is demanding more amenities like they’re accustomed to at the baseball park and the football stadium.”

NASCAR is really competitive and getting more so as far as tracks competing to host the races, Zalewski pointed out.

“You’re seeing legendary tracks like Darlington (Raceway) and Martinsville (Speedway) now have to fight to hold on to their races. And there’s talk of new tracks in the West and in the East.”

Dave Weaver, American Seating president and CEO, describes American Seating as “a company of firsts.”

He pointed out that American Seating created the only heated outdoor stadium chair, that it was the first to develop molded seats for major league baseball stadiums and was the first to develop the three-quarter safety fold seat for sports and entertainment venues.

“We continue to expand seating options for our customers by looking at new uses and locations for seating in all of our markets.”

The company has manufactured seating for the sports and entertainment industries for more than 100 years.

In addition to stadium, arena, auditorium and theater seating, the company manufactures seating for educational facilities, mass transit vehicles and the contract office furniture industry.

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