On raceday at Nazareth there was an interesting story by Mariella Savidge on the Business Page of the Morning Call (the local newspaper) about spectator spending for the annual Bosch Sparkplug Grand Prix. The information contained in the article was surprising, especially in light of reports about poor attendance and the imminent removal of the Nazareth event from future CART schedules.
"The CART race always means a sold-out weekend. It makes for a very tight hotel situation here," said Mary Ann Bungerz, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors' Bureau.
The credibility of Ms. Bungerz' statement is affirmed by an iMapData study in which the web-based research firm tracked non-local consumer spending in the Lehigh Valley. This could lead one to the conclusion that if everyone who booked a hotel room during Bosch Sparkplug Grand Prix weekends at Nazareth would have actually showed up for the races the event might not now be in jeopardy of discontinuation.
In 1997 the Molson Indy of Toronto, which is certainly one of the best attended of all CART races, ran during a record-breaking heat wave. Midday temperatures hovered around the 100-degree mark for all three days of the event. The sun also shone brightly that weekend, forcing melanin-challenged race fans like myself to cope with the additional discomfort of sunburn and headache.
I had so much wanted to be high in the grandstand on Saturday to witness the running of what turned out to be the short-lived North American Touring Car Championship race, but I needed desperately to get out of the sun. Returning to my posh hotel room, I spent the afternoon consuming mass quantities of aspirin, bottled water and central air conditioning.
It was a pleasant surprise that the Touring Cars were on TV! I must say that I enjoyed the race immensely while I nursed myself back to good spectator health on the cool king-size bed. However, when the NATCC went extinct at the end of the season I blamed myself.
How many no-shows spent race weekend Saturdays in hotel rooms or swimming pools while vibrant motorsport sub-species struggled for survival?
Darwinistically speaking, one might say that "survival of the fittest" also applies to the world of
auto racing; that ticket holders will show up if the product is compelling enough. I sincerely believe that purchasing a ticket for any event makes the ticket holder responsible to attend - with the exception of an illness or some other valid emergency - or to at least insure that someone else will use the ticket.
If you are watching a race in a hotel room you are not only guilty of sabotaging the future of that event by creating an empty
race day seat for everyone in the world to see on TV, but clandestine viewership of a race will not even be validated by the ratings firms. They count households, not hotel rooms.
Lazy behavior like this further jeopardizes CART's already precarious TV predicament, creating a true lose/lose situation. We must all realize that in the case of no-shows the operative phrase is always: "What you don't see is what you get!"
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