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Grand Prix has grown this year
LONG BEACH - Two months before the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Dwight Tanaka's crew of 40 begin laying down the foundation for a city within a city destined to thrive for three days.

That's 2,100 concrete blocks for the 1.97-mile race track, each block measuring 12 feet long and weighing 10,000 pounds apiece. An assortment of cranes, forklifts and semi-trucks erect four miles of debris fence. As the weekend draws closer, portions of the city's downtown area are shut down in phases. More structures are added: 17 grandstands, 65 hospitality suites, nine pedestrian bridges, and seven diamond vision boards.

And all it took was a year of planning that began almost immediately after the conclusion of last year's 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"A lot of people think we work only three days out of the year, but that's not the case," said Tanaka, vice president of operations under the Grand Prix Association.

Staging the Grand Prix takes a veritable army. In addition to the volunteers and organizers of the event, nearly 250 people from more than 13 city departments and ancillary organizations work in concert to pull off a weekend of national and international racing that attracts about 180,000 to downtown.

The scope of organizing the event has grown more complicated over the years as the Long Beach skyline changed with the influx of housing developments, residents and businesses, Tanaka said.

More city staffers are working as well, said David Ashman, manager of special events and filming under the Parks, Recreations & Marine Department.

"There are more people this year and the reason why is because there are more things going on downtown," Ashman said. "We have a growing resident community, we have more businesses. We have more police and harbor area operations because (the area) has been much more popular. Because of the heavy impact on traffic, we also have a nightlife traffic plan." Long Beach Press Telegram

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