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Volume 24 No. 114
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Grand Prix Of Baltimore Seeing Uptick In Sponsorships, Ticket Sales

Izod IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Baltimore organizers are "bullish on sponsorships for the Labor Day weekend event and on tickets, which have been for sale since before Christmas, though they won't release exact numbers," according to Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore SUN. Race GM Tim Mayer said, "We're literally four months ahead of last year." Organizers said that in another change this year they are "making a concerted push to attract parents with children to a more family-friendly event." Children 12 and under will be let in "for free, if accompanied by an adult, compared to the $35 price for all attendees last year." Organizers also are "moving the 'Family Fun Zone' inside the air-conditioned Baltimore Convention Center and expanding the activities there." Mayer said, "Last year, we were 100 percent focused on getting the race put on. Now we're absolutely focused on increasing the value for families." He added that organizers also are "making changes for adults," including "improving the beer garden, hoping to host the 'World's Largest Crab Feast' and booking better-known bands." Race On LLC partner J.P. Grant, whose company organizes the race, said, "Ticket sales are well in advance of last year. Suite sales are well in advance. Sponsors are on tap already. We've learned from last year. This is a race I'm committed to. Every year it should get a little bit better and a little bit better" (Baltimore SUN, 6/1).

BELLE OF THE BALL: In Detroit, Mike Brudenell writes Belle Isle Grand Prix Chair Bud Denker "wants to attract what he calls the casual fan ... as well as the enthusiast" to the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit next year. Denker "knows he’ll get the support and hopes he’ll get the money from his boss, Roger Penske, to do it, but he is expecting the IndyCar series brass to pitch in, too -- and the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons, perhaps." He "isn’t looking for cash from Detroit’s major sports franchises, but he’d like them to make their players available for autograph sessions and appearances at Belle Isle over race weekend." Denker said, "We had 23 Red Wings players ... who turned up a couple hours before Sunday’s IndyCar race." Meanwhile, he has said that he "wants the doubleheader race format used this weekend back." Denker: "I’ve already portioned for that. I want it because it is good for the fans and our sponsors. This series right now needs to be shaken up a little bit. Doing the same old things is not enough any more. We have to move the needle on the dial." Denker also is "planning a better Belle Isle Grand Prix for 2014, with better grandstand viewing, more improvements to the 2.3-mile race circuit and a crossover bridge on the main straight that would allow fans seated in stands and chalets on the outside of the track to conveniently access the paddock and garage area near the casino building" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/4).

THE SUITE LIFE: In Detroit, Doug Guthrie notes the Belle Isle Grand Prix has "one more year in its agreement" with the city, plus "several option years." Both sides "indicate the deal is likely to get a long-term extension soon." For next year's event, the grandstands behind the starters' main stretch flag stand "will be replaced next year by a 340-foot-long row of double-decker corporate suites." Denker yesterday said, "They are going to sell out. They were well-received. I've already had four companies step up today for next year." Denker added that plans to "fight muddy pathways and improve parking and bus service worked, even if the exit lines for shuttle buses looked long" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/4). Also in Detroit, Terry Foster writes the event's planners "do a wonderful job of attracting sponsors," but "imagine if there was a full-day music festival involved." That would bring "non-race fans to an event who might actually get hooked on the sport." Race GM Charles Burns said, "I would love to see more concerts for kids, not that we don’t have enough" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/4).

MORE IS BETTER?'s John Oreovicz reported some observers prior to the event "thought the notion of the IndyCar Series staging two full-length races on the same weekend was a bit gimmicky." But the format "worked well, and despite the challenges of completing two full races in the space of 26 hours, just about everybody came away from Belle Isle feeling very positive about the inaugural doubleheader weekend." The event from a commercial standpoint "achieved one of its primary goals for Roger Penske -- a very solid Saturday crowd, up considerably from past years when the Saturday ticket included only IndyCar qualifying and support series races." Penske said that the goal of "boosting Saturday attendance was 'absolutely' achieved." Penske: "We had lots of support from the corporate community. ... I'm very in favor of (doubleheaders) from a team perspective. This will help build a lot of fans here in Detroit. I've never seen the kind of corporate support we've had here, which makes a big difference" (, 6/3).