Big crowds brought big business to LB Merchants
Mike Conway, who won the Verizon IndyCar Series Race at Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, wasn’t the only one with reason to celebrate.
|The crowds were five deep in some places on Sunday|
Event organizers on Monday reported close to 180,000 attendees over the three-day weekend, about 10,000 more than expected, according to preliminary estimates.
Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association, credited the weekend’s success to several factors, including the good weather, the fanfare surrounding the event’s 40th year in Long Beach and the appearance of racing legends such as Mario Andretti, who was grand marshal of this year’s event, and Al Unser Jr.
“That was a significant draw on Sunday morning, especially those lines for Andretti; it was incredible,” Michaelian said. “They had to cut the line off before (the autograph session) even started because there was no way all those people were going to get through in an hour.”
Michaelian said the higher-than-expected attendance speaks to the success of the event in Long Beach, whose future had been uncertain several weeks ago when city officials considered opening up the bidding process to explore other events such as Formula One.
Earlier this month, the city and the Grand Prix Association tentatively agreed to extend the current contract through 2018 with one-year extension options. The new agreement will come before the City Council on April 22.
If approved, it would guarantee the event’s future with IndyCar while giving the city time to consider its options.
“A lot of the fans have voted by their presence, haven’t they?” Michaelian said. “It says something to the fact that despite some of the conversations and initiatives that have gone on in town, the fans are coming out because they see this as an exciting event.”
Event cleanup will occur over the next 21 days, but the parking lot and the whole south side of Shoreline Drive and Pine Avenue should be open to traffic Tuesday.
A BOOST TO BUSINESS
The weekend was good for businesses as well, with officials reporting booked hotel rooms and heavy foot traffic at restaurants.
Thursday to Sunday were huge days for Shannon’s On Pine Irish Pub & Sports Bar. The establishment saw patron numbers and revenue rise slightly above last year.
“We have been very lucky. Each year has brought us more than the previous year,” said Shannon’s owner Ron Hodges. “The crowd in the day was smaller than in the evenings, but evenings more than made up for the daytime action. ... We bill ourselves as the Unofficial Grand Prix Party HQ and (maybe) we overbilled it this year; it was GP Party HQ when the sun went down.”
Race fans also got to preview new Pine Avenue restaurant BO-beau kitchen + rooftap, which gave the highly anticipated restaurant some exposure before it officially opens in May.
Stephenson, whose other restaurants include one in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, said the guests were especially drawn to the rooftop, which was so packed that there was a wait to get into the area.
“It was fantastic; I can’t tell you how great it was,” said operations manager James Stephenson.
Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of Downtown Business Associates, said in a statement that the Grand Prix was an economic boon for downtown Long Beach businesses.
“To extend and enhance this impact, the DLBA hosted Thunder Thursday the evening before the Grand Prix, attracting more than 4,000 revelers,” he said. “Additionally, we invited prospective business owners and commercial brokers to a reception at the Hyatt Regency Vista Club on Saturday to showcase the growth in downtown and encourage new investment.”
Meanwhile, the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomed more than 60 meeting planners and their guests from Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and other key markets the CVB has been targeting for business.
Their business represents about $52 million in potential economic impact to the city, said Jarrod Finley, vice president of sales for the CVB.
“This is fantastic exposure for Long Beach,” he said. “What better way to see Long Beach than to showcase the city during a fantastic event like Grand Prix?" Long Beach Press Telegram