Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials are “counting on a super-sized schedule to increase attendance" for the upcoming NASCAR weekend at the Brickyard, according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The two days of racing include the Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal 400, Nationwide Series Indy 250, Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Indianapolis Grand Prix and the Continental Tire Series Brickyard Sports Car Challenge. IMS President & CEO Jeff Belskus said that he expects “50,000 people for Friday's inaugural sports car day” as well as a “good turnout for Saturday's doubleheader of Sprint Cup practice and qualifying followed by the track's first Nationwide race.” Belskus “isn't sure if the new attractions, including a host of musical acts highlighted by The Band Perry, will boost Sunday's main event crowd.” He said that ticket sales are “flat year over year.” Cavin noted Brickyard crowd estimates "have dropped dramatically each of the past four years, with NASCAR estimating last year's at 138,000.” Smaller crowds "don't reflect well on the speedway or the sport, and all eyes will be on the totals." NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson said, “To see empty seats at Indy and Bristol is mind-boggling. Two major raceways slipping; nobody understands that.” Cavin wrote, “There are several reasons for the decline, led by the improved at-home TV experience." Traveling also "is down across the country due to lingering effects of a sluggish economy, and it doesn't help that much of the Midwest is enduring a record-hot summer.” NASCAR driver and team owner Tony Stewart said that he “fears some Indianapolis fans are still smarting from the 2008 race that was marred by Goodyear's shredding tires” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/15).
Events and Attractions
A year removed from “what could be considered a low point for the Mercury Insurance Open, the once premier women's tennis tournament appears to be on an upswing,” according to Andrew John of the L.A. TIMES. A $50M renovation of the host site at La Costa Resort and Spa at Carlsbad, Calif., “has certainly helped.” While the resort was upgraded, tournament organizers “oversaw changes to the tennis facilities that are primarily in an effort to attract the best WTA players, many of whom have skipped the event in recent years.” WTA Mercury Insurance Open Exec Dir Steve Simon said, "Players, like everyone else, when they see investment and they see energy and they see things that are building the event and putting them on a bigger stage, those are places they're going to want to play. It happens over time, but we wanted to start putting the foundation for that in place this year." John notes premium seating “has been upgraded, the north end of the stadium has been redesigned, and video walls have been added to provide an easier view of scores, match updates and replays.” Simon acknowledged that the talent pool in this year's tournament “isn't what it once was when it was considered a ‘premier’ tournament on the WTA tour.” But he said that the field “was stronger than it has been, and he expects it to continue to get better” (L.A. TIMES, 7/16).
SLEEPING GIANT: In California, Leighton Ginn wrote Simon always saw the Mercury Insurance Open “as a sleeping giant” on the WTA Tour. It had “similar elements that turned Simon's main tournament, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, into one of the world's five biggest tournaments.” Simon and the rest of his BNP Paribas exec team took over managing the Mercury Insurance Open earlier this year. Simon said, “It's a great tennis market that plays it and consumes it. ... It draws from Orange County, the Inland Empire and they're all within driving distance.” Octagon was “persistent about having Simon run the tournament and he weighed the options.” He said, “It's good for any organization to challenge itself and it will only help what we're doing at Indian Wells.” Ginn noted in the future, the tournament “will continue to have challenges with the field because of where it sits on the calendar.” This year, the Mercury Insurance Open “begins two weeks after the Wimbledon finals.” As "nice" as La Costa is, it is “a small venue that won't allow for much growth.” Simon does not see the tournament “growing from a 28-player draw to 56 because of it” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 7/15).