SBD/September 2, 2014/Events and Attractions

Labor Day Weekend Date Leads To Lower Attendance In SoCal For IndyCar Finale

Saturday's MavTV 500 suffered a loss of corporate sales on top of a crowd dropoff

An estimated crowd of less than 25,000 attended the Verizon IndyCar Series finale at Auto Club Speedway Saturday night, meaning the track “took a big step backward” from the last few years, according to Louis Brewster of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The MavTV 500 drew around 40,000 in '13, when it was held in October, and 30,000 for the mid-September date in ’12. However, due to the Labor Day holiday, a "low turnout was expected based on the NASCAR record at the track.” Track President Gillian Zucker said that the event also "suffered a loss of corporate sales.” Zucker said, “We lost our entire corporate backing. Corporate sales are a huge part. It’s not just the suites, it’s hospitality. People end up in the grandstand after having gone to a (hospitality) tent or part of a meeting or a presentation. A lot of companies support team building that they do at sporting events, or use tickets as prizes for sales people, so there’s a pretty healthy corporate market out there that sporting events such as ours rely on. And so to do it on a weekend like this and have it completely eliminated, it makes it difficult” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/31).

DOOMED FROM THE START? In California, Jim Alexander wrote “given Zucker’s experience with the Labor Day weekend date for NASCAR races, in retrospect it’s amazing that she was as positive as she was (even considering her irrepressible nature) when the 2014 IndyCar date was announced last year.” Zucker: “I was hopeful. I knew we'd see some dropoff because we'd had events on Labor Day weekend before and the heat has been extraordinarily unpleasant. But in going back and looking, there were some dates when the weather was more temperate.” But Zucker added, “IndyCar really cooperated with us, because for television ratings on the east coast, having a 10:20 start time makes it tough on them. And yet the broadcast partner (NBC Sports Network) cooperated. IndyCar cooperated. So I do feel everybody is pulling on the rope in the same direction. We're all one team. We all want it to grow and become bigger, and I think that's why everybody's making a big push to find a date that works in this market" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 9/31). Alexander wrote that NASCAR’s Labor Day weekend at Auto Club Speedway “didn’t work” from ’04-08 and now IndyCar has “also learned what a difficult sell racing can be here on this particular weekend.” But “at least the IndyCar folks didn’t need five years to figure it out.” Nothing is official, and next year’s schedule “probably won’t be released for a while, but there are reports that in 2015 the open-wheel cars will instead run here in late June” (PE.com, 8/30).

EARLY LOOK AT NEW SCHEDULE: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin reported that Houston’s IndyCar race “is out” and Canada is “apparently back in as it relates” to the ’15 schedule. IndyCar “confirmed” the Houston news on Friday, while a “permanent road course near Toronto confirmed the latter on its website.” Houston held an IndyCar doubleheader the past two years near NRG Park, “but the sanctioning body said in a statement that a date couldn’t be secured for next year.” The “possibility for a future venue change exists.” Exhibition Place in Toronto, which hosted the IndyCar race since ’86, “will be unavailable in July next year due to activities related” to the Pan Am Games (INDYSTAR.com, 8/29).

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