Vegas businesses making room for Grand Prix

Michelle Dell knows the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix will bring business to her Hogs & Heifers Saloon on Third Street.

Just the wind from 750-horsepower Champ race cars roaring down Ogden Avenue on Easter weekend should blow a few people into her bar half a block from the 2.4-mile course.

She expects the race, scheduled for April 6-8, to be bigger than the National Basketball Association's recent All-Star Weekend, which catered to an out-of-town, corporate and celebrity crowd. Local residents were shut out by exorbitant ticket prices. A customer at Hogs & Heifers said NBA All-Star Weekend was a good reason to stay away from the Strip.

Vegas Grand Prix is expected to attract 150,000 spectators, about one-fourth of them locals, during a three-day festival of speed and entertainment. Ticket prices start at $44 in advance for the race.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has yet to estimate the race's economic impact on the city. The Nextel NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway drew 158,000 fans in 2006 for a nongaming economic impact of $129.3 million and the NBA All-Star Game brought 85,000 visitors who spent an estimated $90.6 million.

"I'm here in support of the event," Dell said at a meeting between downtown business owners and residents and organizers of the 2007 season opener for the Champ Car World Series. "It's a fabulous event for downtown Las Vegas. I have one concern as a business owner, which has to do with construction time heading up to the weekend. My only concern is what downtown will look like."

It won't be pretty, Champ circuit manager Chris Kneifel conceded, but he promised to make it as painless as possible.

Placement of concrete barrier walls started Thursday at Grand Central Parkway and F Street. Certain segments of downtown streets will be closed from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., Kneifel said. More at Las Vegas Review Journal

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