Edmonton airport transformation staggering

In less than three months, workers have transformed the barren grounds of the City Centre Airport into the newest circuit on the Champ Car World Series tour. More than $2 million was put into creating the Finning International Speedway, and the result is a race track unlike any other that Champ Car drivers will see.

While it encompasses traits of oval, street and airport tracks all into one course, the downtown loop offers excellent vantage points for fans from every grandstand and luxury suite spot.

"The drivers love the width of the course (75 feet for the majority) and the openness, which is going to give them the ability to run at high speeds," said Tom Doerksen, Grand Prix of Edmonton's operations director.

A DRIVER'S RACE "There are a lot of passing opportunities that just don't exist at a lot of the race venues like the one in Vancouver, which was just a parade. This is definitely a driver's race."

And a race for fans who want all the action in plain sight. "The viewability is outstanding. There is not a bad seat in the place. There are no tracks that allow the fans to see such a large percentage of the race," added Doerksen.

Once approval for the race was granted, the initial design was forwarded to Champ Car. Input and redesigns followed before a lasting image was put through a computer simulator where the final changes were determined, as well as the rate of speed and braking that were required for all stages of the track.

With a design in hand, the job of resurfacing the airport began when $1-million worth of high-grade polymer-compound asphalt was trucked in.

"As we were constructing the track we began the work on the grandstands in early May," said Doerksen. "The grandstands and suites were one of the longest processes, and at the same time we were finishing the paving and resurfacing."

More than 11,000 feet of concrete was brought in to close off the speedway, with more than 22,000 tires in place as barriers. Temporary seating for 43,000 spectators spanning nearly a mile of the track were put up. Among the next chores to be done was the installation of waterlines, the raising of more than 100 tents, landscaping along the entranceway and the arrival of trailer units for track services and operations.

Few, though, matched the task of preparing to beam the Grand Prix of Edmonton around the world. "The power and wiring to set up the TV compound is absolutely staggering," said Doerksen.

JUMBOTRONS Five Jumbotrons will dot the course, showing replays and leaderboards with 28 cameras surrounding the track, some operating by robotic arms. But even with every piece of equipment, every race car ready to take off and an expected total crowd of more than 175,000, the City Centre Airport will still have one runway open through the big weekend. "We're still expecting about 20 aircraft bringing in officials, corporate clients, sponsors and teams to be flying in on the one runway that's open," said Greg Macdonald, GM and president of the Grand Prix of Edmonton. Edmonton Sun

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