The Bristol Motor Speedway is known for hosting the annual NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) race, but did you know that the speedway also features a diverse range of attractions?
Bristol is one of the most welcoming cities in the UK, and the locals are extremely friendly. It prides itself on being a city that celebrates diversity, displaying a unique mix of American and European influences. If you visit Bristol in the right mood, you will feel right at home.
Whether you are a motorsport fan or not, there is something for everyone at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Here is a round-up of the other attractions, places of worship and events that take place at the complex:
The Race Track
The most recognizable feature of the Bristol Motor Speedway is unquestionably the race track. Covering a total of 5.565 acres, the track is truly a sight to behold. The grandstands and paddocks can hold up to 70,000 people, making it the largest indoor sporting arena in Europe.
The track was opened in July 1922 and was originally known as the White City Stadium. It was designed by English architect Arthur Davis, and features a 50-meter-high light tower, which stands like a beacon over the whole of the complex.
In July 1924, the stadium was officially opened by the Duke of York, who was then on tour in the UK. It was after this event that the stadium was renamed to its current form, the Bristol Motor Speedway. During the Second World War, the stadium was closed for major redevelopment, and then re-opened in 1946.
Besides the main oval track, the Bristol Motor Speedway features a second track, the Bank of America Plaza Track, a 12-foor TIC (Theatre in the Community) and the International Convention Centre.
The 12-floor, steel-framed office building was built in 1973 and is known affectionately as the Pepper Building, named after the then-mayor of Bristol, Kenyon Pepper. He commissioned the building to house his city administration and support offices. There are various restaurants and bars located in the building, along with a wellness centre.
The office building is connected to a twin-towered hotel by an indoor walkway, and the two structures form the Bristol Grand Hotel complex.
The TIC, or Theatre in the Community, is a performance and exhibition space located within the Bristol Motor Speedway. It was built in 1972 to host touring theatrical shows and exhibitions, as well as hosting up to 10,000 people in its 40,000 square feet of exhibition space. It is the only one of its kind in the UK, and has been referred to as an ‘indoor-outdoor’ theatre, due to its retractable, earth-covered roof. The building has a bar, restaurant and bookstore, as well as offices and dressing rooms for performers.
The International Convention Centre (ICC) is located at the heart of the Bristol Motor Speedway and features a number of high-tech conference rooms, a boutique hotel, car dealership and a bar. The complex also hosts a weekly ‘Bikers’ Café’, where motorbikes can be seen lined up outside, and served by bike-themed staff. The centre opened in 1968 and was designed by the German firm of Hoch+Pohl+Engelhardt. It is currently Europe’s largest convention complex.
Other events that take place at the speedway include a flea market, car boot sale, comedy clubs, live music venues, and even a haunted hotel! There are also a number of independent shops, bars and restaurants that feature in the pedestrian paradise that is Ashton Villa.
Arts And Culture
The Bristol Motor Speedway is closely linked to the University of Bristol’s Department of Arts and Humanities. The department runs a number of courses at the stadium, such as American Studies, British Studies, and Film Studies, which is the basis of the annual NASCAR film festival that is held at the venue. This is truly an educational and entertaining experience for students, as well as the general public alike.
An example of a course that is offered is the American Studies MA. This allows students to specialise in areas such as media, arts and entertainment, and sports, with a particular focus on the US. Students have the option of either doing their project in the US, or internationally, and can even include placements in Germany, where the MA course is based.
The Bristol Motor Speedway is home to St Peter’s Church. This church, designed by the prolific English architect Sir Norman Foster, began construction in 1972 and was consecrated in 1975. The church is dedicated to St Peter, and is one of the most popular Christian places of worship in the UK.
The church website highlights some of the designs that Foster created for the Bristol Motor Speedway, including the 25-metre high bell tower, and the nave, which is flanked by American and European elements, matching the motto “unity in diversity” that can be found on the church’s coat of arms.
Among the many notable British and international artists who have worked at the church are Richard Deacon, and Louise Bourgeois. The church holds regular workshops and open-air concerts, as well as occasional art exhibitions, which are open to the public.
One of the more unique aspects of the Bristol Motor Speedway is its role as a sports venue. The stadium was originally built for speedway, with the first race taking place in 1924. While this may be the most recognizable feature of the venue, it does not mean that all of its attractions are restricted to sports fans. As well as hosting the annual NASCAR race, the Bristol Motor Speedway also hosts a variety of other sporting events and activities, including greyhound racing, curling, ice skating, and most notably, cricket. The ground also has a 12,000-seater stadium, dedicated to the game of English cricket, and is regularly used for county cricket matches.
The stadium boasts one of the best sports bars in Europe, with fans of all sports able to indulge in some refreshments while catching a game. Opened in 2017, the bar has 14 flat-screen TVs and also serves as the headquarters of the Bristol City Football Club. The Bristol City FC Supporters’ Trust purchased the freehold of the ground in 2016 for a reputed £7.85 million, and the club is now hoping to build a new, state-of-the-art stadium on the site. If all goes to plan, the new venue will be completed in time for the 2021 season. This will mark the 160th anniversary of Bristol City Football Club.
Health And Wellness
Bristol is home to a large number of independent health practitioners and clinics. One of the city’s most famous healthcare products is the Bristol Cream Tea. First produced in 1902, this popular drink is made with milk, lemon juice, and tea leaves. It is extremely high in vitamin A, and is often prescribed for those with cataracts or other eye problems. The city is also well-known for its saltwater aquarium, home to a wide variety of sea creatures. In addition to this, Bristol is one of the few cities in the world where you can find street lamps made completely out of jellyfish!
There are a number of excellent gyms and fitness centres in Bristol, with the aforementioned pepper building hosting a 25m pool, along with a spa and wellness centre. If you are looking for a more secluded location, the gyms also offer a number of indoor-outdoor pool options, set within the lush banks of the Avon Gorge. Weight-loss surgeries are also available at the city’s two private hospitals. Additionally, the Bristol Hippocrates Health Centre is a world-class research and teaching hospital, affiliated to the University of Bristol.
Bristol’s diverse communities come together to celebrate cultural difference and identity at the city’s annual arts festival, Sustainability Week. This week-long celebration features a host of different exhibitions, workshops, and lectures, which celebrate the sustainability ethos. The whole city, including the surrounding areas, gets involved in some way, with activities and festivals held across the city all week long. In addition to this, the city’s schools hold an annual arts week, with students participating in a variety of events and competitions. This event is a great way to showcase the talents of young people and encourage them to pursue a career in the arts!