By CARA COOPER
Seventy years is a long time.
Very few businesses make it that long. Less than 10 percent of all sports stadiums have made it that long. No arena currently in use by an NBA team is that old. Only two NBA arenas have even reached the three decade mark – Oracle Arena is 51 and Madison Square Garden where it is now is 49. The next oldest is the BMO Harris Center in Milwaukee at 28.
In the NFL, only two stadiums best the 70 year mark, and with the exception of one random year in the ’50s, Chicago’s Soldier Field didn’t even start holding NFL games there until 1971. The Coliseum in Los Angeles started housing an NFL team in 2016.
Even Major League Baseball, often seen as a beacon of the good ole days, only claims two fields older than 70 – Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The next oldest, Dodger Stadium, was built in 1962, and 14 of the 30 teams currently play in stadiums that were built this century.
In a time in which owners constantly want to tear down and rebuild the latest and greatest thing, it’s hard to find great stadiums and arenas that have withstood the test of time and bring back that air of nostalgia while also making every event seem different and new. Events that call each athlete to it with the hope of winning, not just for another victory under their belt but to one day look back and say “I was a part of history.”
That is what is so impressive about the 70 year run of Martinsville Speedway. According to some exhaustive internet research, it would appear that only nine professional sports stadiums currently in use in the U.S. are older than the Paperclip. In 70 years, Martinsville Speedway has hosted 137 NASCAR races, second only to Daytona. Forty-nine different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won there, and, well no one really knows exactly how many grandfather clocks have been given out. But it’s definitely enough to fill the infield of the 0.525 mile track.
Yes, 70 years is a long time. Longer than a lot of people on the planet can even fathom. When Martinsville Speedway opened in 1947, it would still be another nine years until the first Interstate Highway System was built. The track is a year older than NASCAR itself.
All of that is to say, congrats on 70 years Martinsville. It’s impossible to know where the sport will be in 70 more years. NASCAR may be dominated by flying cars by then. Who knows. But for now, 70 years is truly impressive, and Southern Virginia can only hope for 70 more that are just as successful.
This story first appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin in March 2018