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It's business as usual for Long Beach GP
No matter how lousy the economy or job market, some events seem to be recession-proof - the Super Bowl being a prime example.  Even as the Dow sunk and debt soared in recent years, attendance and advertising revenue during the big game far outpaced industry standards.

And while Long Beach may never host an event of such magnitude, the city does boast its own seemingly recession-proof annual bonanza: the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Through 36 years of boom and bust, thousands upon thousands of dedicated race fans have streamed into the city each April to cheer, commiserate and spend.

Since its inception in 1975, the race's prominence and impact on area hotels, merchants and restaurants has grown consistently, and this year is expected to be no different.

"As bad as things have been for a lot of people and businesses, we're still expecting 170,000 people on race weekend, and maybe more depending on weather," said Jim Michaelian, Grand Prix Association president. "It's one of those unique events people wait the whole year for."

While a formal economic impact study hasn't been performed in several years, it's estimated the race and related activities bring more than $30million to the city annually.

A unique draw

The Grand Prix is the city's marquee event, drawing nearly triple the amount of people and dollars than the No. 2 event, the Long Beach Gay Pride Parade and Festival.

And as with the Super Bowl, the selling point for the race is its uniqueness.

It's one of North America's only high-speed urban street races and consistently draws big-name celebrities, plenty of television coverage and a built-in fan base.

These factors, coupled with ticket discounts, race promotions and reasonable hotel rates, have helped the event weather the now 28-month national recession.

"The Grand Prix is one of those incredible institutions where fans are often willing to cut back discretionary spending in other areas to make sure there's something there for race weekend," said Randy Gordon, President of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "(The recession) is obviously affecting people, but in general people remain passionate about the race and passionate about returning."  More at LB Press Telegram

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