CART's real attendance numbers

 by Mark Cipolloni
July 21, 2002

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An article recently made its way around the internet written by a reporter that frequents the IRL paddock and who normally covers all the IRL events.  This same reporter also has his hand in the IRL till, working as a race spotter for certain teams on occasion. Once or twice per year he shows up at a CART race and this year it was Cleveland.

Before the weekend activities had begun, said reporter had already counted all the grandstand seats and was disputing the number of seats listed in the event guide (50,000).  In the article he wrote, he claimed to have counted 21,480 seats (plus suites) and we have every reason to believe them since we verified the numbers. 

There's no question he had discovered a major error in the event guide. It was also evident by his actions, that this IRL friendly reporter, sometimes IRL team employee, was on a mission to discredit CART's attendance numbers at Cleveland even before the weekend got started.  Why else would he show up early and run out to count grandstand seats?

The IRL friendly reporter found that the event guide had two errors in it, and he was absolutely correct.  In one location it listed 50,000 seats and in another it stated 100,000 seats were handled by construction crews.  In fact, there were only 25,000 grandstand and suite seats and construction crews had to assemble, and then disassemble, for a total of 50,000 (2 x 25,000 = 50,000).  In other words, the event guide had mistakenly double counted the number of seats.

Knowing that the actual seats were something over 20,000, the reporter, having done what he thought was all the necessary research, prepared the article in question as soon as he heard the announced attendance of 51,317.  This was his chance to discredit CART and help out the race series he strongly supports, one that has struggled with weak attendance since its creation in 1996.  In fact, numerous IRL races have been cancelled over the years because of poor attendance.

In the article he writes - CART vice president of communications Adam Saal supported the figure of 35,000 as the attendance for Saturday's qualifying as stated by organizers. Pressed on the issue, he said, "I'll get back to you. We'll talk after the race."  Afterward we contacted Adam Saal and he told us he got busy after the race and when he went back to find him, he had already left.  Therefore, Saal never had a chance to go over the attendance figures in detail with him.  If he had, he would have understood how the promoter, IMG, came up with the announced attendance of 51,000.

We contacted CART for an actual breakdown of the attendance numbers and this is what we were told, roughly rounded:

25,000 grandstand seats (also includes suite, hospitality and VIP seating)
16,000 General Admission tickets and passes
7,000 Hospitality VIP
3,000 Credentialed personnel
51,000 Total

This is total attendance, paid, comp, passes or otherwise. In addition to traditional cash sales, it includes hospitality passes, sponsor fulfillment passes, CART, Toyota Atlantic, Barber Dodge and SCCA credential personnel, IMG employees and guests, promotional tickets (media partners like WKNR, etc.) and sponsor promotions (Shell as a general example).

The announcement put out by IMG after the race did not state 'paid' attendance, just 'attendance'.  Hence the 51,000 number holds up.  Was it misleading?  Do most readers think attendance announcements are paid attendance?  Perhaps, but as far as we know, attendance figures always include all the people on the grounds, paid or unpaid.

So there you have it - the real attendance numbers

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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