Race weekend brings needed economic boost to Elizabethton motels

By Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   Businesses across Carter County are breathing a sigh of relief this weekend as race fans from across the nation offer a respite from lean financial times. This weekend's races at the Bristol Motor Speedway are always occasions that benefit industries in neighboring counties, and this year Carter County is as eager as ever to accept the much needed tourism revenue dollars.
   This spring's races in Bristol have many Carter County businesses a little more appreciative of their neighboring county's national attraction. Motels in Elizabethton have been booked up since the beginning of the year for race weekend. The motel industry across the nation has experienced monumental slumps since the September 11 attacks all but halted tourism.
   The Comfort Inn, 1515 Hwy. 19E, has had vendors for the races at the motel all week and experienced its busiest night Friday when race fans arrived. "It is the busiest time of the year for us," reservationist Randy Campbell said. "We send out confirmation letters a month in advance and asked people to send it back to say if they want the same accommodations as they had last year."
   Many racing teams travel to Elizabethton to escape the traffic in Bristol on race weekend. "It is a tremendous thing for our area to be able to accommodate people for the races," Campbell said. "The fans that come here for the race and the teams that stay with us are always very nice. We all just work together and stay busy, busy, busy."
   The Days Inn, 505 W. Elk Ave., was booked up in advance for race weekend as well. The motel gets most of its business when the Bristol Motor Speedway is in full force, and collects a lot of extra revenue from racing fans.
   Workers at Days Inn brace for the onslaught of racing fans by preparing check-in papers before guests arrive. The motel experienced extremely high occupancy rates with as many as 50 guests checking in Friday evening. Workers stated that fans choose to lodge in Elizabethton's motels because they are some of the closest to the speedway and there is much less traffic to contend with.
   Lakes Shore Cottages and Motel opens up just in time for the races in Bristol. It opens March 1 and closes October 31 so fans are able to stay at the motel during both spring and fall races. The business prides itself in offering the same rates during race weekend that it does all summer. It does not increase rates in order to profit from the high demand for lodging in the region during races.
   Even though Lake Shore Cottages are approximately 45 minutes (without traffic) away from the speedway, there is never a vacancy during a race weekend. The motel looks forward to seeing many of the same faces during the races, and fans from as far away as Canada lodged in Hampton for the weekend.