LOUDON, N.H. (AP) – The new owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway is known for making big changes fast when he takes over a track, but officials say short-term plans are limited to cosmetic upgrades.

In the month since O. Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc., closed on the $340 million sale, the company has had architects and engineers survey the property to better understand what renovations can be made to make it a world-class sports facility, said Jerry Gappens, general manager at the speedway.

By the time race pans arrive for June’s Sprint Cup weekend, they are likely to enjoy additional bathrooms, renovated suites, reconfigured concession stands and more signs to make the grounds easier to navigate, Gappens said. The undersides of the grandstands will be painted to “lighten and brighten” the space, he said, but major remodeling will be plotted for the future as part of a longer-term master plan, he said.

“I think there are going to be some people pleasantly surprised, even in June,” he said. “And there are going to be a lot of people surprised at what this place looks like three to five years from now.”

The company is exploring changes such as lighting more seats, developing a better way to use infield space and changing the racing surface itself. That work will involve dealing with local community leaders, who put limits on the track when it was built in 1990. The deal reached with neighbors back then prohibits musical concerts, night racing, tractor pulls and other activities at the track, but Gappens is confident that the reputation the speedway has built over the last two decades will help if Speedway Motorsports wants to re-negotiate.

“Almost 20 years later, most people look at how much of a positive it is, with the people that come in and spend money and stay in this area, and those are great assets to this whole region,” he said. “The mind-set should be totally different now.”

Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.cmonitor.com

AP-ES-02-10-08 1209EST

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