The first phase of Lowe's Motor Speedway's $200 million renovation project marked a major milestone today with the installation of the first of 22,850 new seats along the frontstretch of the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway.

The plastic back and bottom of the seat were installed by H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, with assistance from Coca-Cola 600 ticketholders Larry and Jeff McCorkle, of Huntersville, N.C., and Johnny Bustle, of Cornelius, N.C.

A new steel-and-aluminum structure is being built over the lower concrete bleacher sections of the Chrysler, Ford and General Motors grandstands along the track's front straightaway. The sections being covered were the track's only frontstretch seats when the facility hosted the inaugural Coca-Cola 600 on June 19, 1960.

"The original concrete bleachers now serve as the foundation for the new grandstands being built directly over them," Wheeler explained. "Where fans formerly sat on concrete, they will now have comfortable, stadium-style seats with backs and arms."

The massive new structure includes more than one-million pounds of steel and aluminum. It features 20-inch wide seats and the width of each row has been increased to give fans additional leg room. Handrails are being added down the center of each aisle and the aisles will be wider for easier entry and exit. Additional handicap-seating accommodations are also part of the project.

"These new seats are going to greatly enhance the race-day experience for our frontstretch ticketholders," Wheeler added.

While the grandstand structure and seats are new, a large portion of the frontstretch renovation is already part of Charlotte sports history. The green metal uprights that will support nearly 20,000 of the seat backs and bottoms have been recycled from the Charlotte Coliseum where they served sports fans and concert goers from 1988 to 2005.

"The Charlotte Coliseum hosted 364 consecutive NBA sellouts, the 1994 Final Four, numerous concerts and a speech by Mother Teresa," Wheeler noted. "The building is gone, but with the installation of these seats at least a portion of that historic facility will continue to serve area sports fans.

"Recycling is so very important and if we hadn't gone into the Coliseum and retrieved these pieces, they would have probably ended up in a landfill."

Seats in the renovated sections of the General Motors, Chrysler and Ford grandstands are now on sale, starting at $65 for the May 17 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and $80 for the May 25 Coca-Cola 600.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling the Lowe's Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS.