IndyCar: Long Beach’s 28,000 grandstand seats nearing sellout (Update)

–by Mark Cipolloni–

CORRECTION: We miscounted.  Long Beach has 28,000 grandstand seats, broken down as 16,000 3-day seats and 12,000 Sunday only seats.

A spokesperson told us Long Beach has an ever-increasing number of general admission attendees, In fact, today’s young people do not want to sit in seats but would rather have the flexibility to move around the circuit, taking pictures and feeding their social media channels. That is the reason Long Beach has not added any more seats over the past few years.

Grandstand seating is nearing a sellout, and at this rate there is a good chance that will happen.

April 12, 2023 

–by Mark Cipolloni–

The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach erects approximately 20,000 grandstand seats each year for the Acura Grand Prix IndyCar and IMSA weekend. Yes, just 20,000!

We can report that the large majority of those seats have been sold for Sunday’s big event – the IndyCar race.

The 20,000 does not include the suites and general admission admissions, which can easily double the number of attendees.

Having a prime time NBC network TV slot last year has appeared to bolster the general public’s enthusiasm, and interest, in the Grand Prix. Ticket sales were already trending higher than last year’s record, Grand Prix boss Jim Michaelian told the Long Beach Press Telegram.

“Both our corporate sales (and) our ticket sales have been really strong — and we’re comparing them to last year, which was our best year of the modern era,” Michaelian said.  “So the numbers, if they’re comparable or plus, that’s a very good sign. Everything is coming into shape.”

Aerial view of the picturesque Long Beach circuit before all the fans arrive

It also helps, Michaelian added, that he and the GPALB have been working to capitalize on the additional exposure to help bring in a larger, younger and more diverse audience to the Grand Prix — to and Long Beach.

Part of that plan, he said, includes stocking the weekend with events that aren’t so racing centric.

Thunder Thursday, a free kick off event at the Pike Outlets, will return once again this year. It will feature freestyle motocross, an exotic car show and a driver autograph session.

Fiesta Friday, a concert that has historically attempted to lure Latino fans, will also return this year, for the first time since 2019.  That concert will star Boombox Cartel, a Los Angeles DJ who performs electronic dance music.

“(Boombox Cartel) is a different format for us in terms of the musical genre,” Michaelian told the Long Beach Press Telegram, noting that the Friday concert has traditionally featured rock bands. “But we think that’s going to add a lot to the attractiveness of not only our Friday crowd — but also to the Hispanic community as a whole.”

The Formula Drift challenge, Michaelian told the Long Beach Press Telegram, is another event that typically draws more diverse crowds.

“That’s one of the reasons why we continue to have (Formula Drift) compete on our weekend,” Michaelian said, “just as a reflection of the fact that what we want to do is be as universal as we can in terms of the attractiveness of our events to a broad demographic of people.”

There’s also the Grand Prix’s annual Saturday night concert, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Terrace Theater plaza and will feature a performance from the Kings of Chaos. That band is composed of a revolving lineup of big-name rock stars, including Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Living Colour’s Corey Glover, Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, Guns N’ Roses’ Gilby Clark, Megadeth’s James LoMenzo and Sublime’s Rome Ramirez.

The Grand Prix’s concourse will also feature the usual attractions: a lifestyle expo, featuring more than 100 retailers, at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center; a family fun zone and tons of options for foodies.

And, of course, there will be a party atmosphere downtown all weekend long.

This year’s theme  — “Southern California’s 200 mph beach party” — is another layer the GPALB has added to the event in hopes of creating an energetic atmosphere for attendees.

But it isn’t just a theme, Michaelian said. It’s more of a rebrand.

“This really is a high-speed beach party, and we want people to come and engage in the event in that context,” Michaelian told the Long Beach Press Telegram.  “So what you’re going to see is a total new look in terms of the presentation, the graphics, the signage — all of the elements here will reflect a new beachy type theme.”

The intention, he added, is to carry that theme through the event for the next few years to set the atmosphere for the 2025 Grand Prix — which will mark the event’s 50th anniversary.

“It’s really part of a three-year plan,” Michaelian said, “to get us to where we want to be in terms of celebration of our 50th.”

This year’s event is expected to generate at least $30 million worth of economic output from consumer spending on hotel stays, restaurants, labor income and tax revenue, Bo Martinez, director of Long Beach’s Economic Development Department told the Long Beach Press Telegram.

Overall, the event will provide a $60 million boost for the Southern California, Martinez said. [Editor’s Note: this compares to $1.3 billion the F1 race will generate for the city of Las Vegas in November]

“The Grand Prix remains a premier event for Long Beach, and an opportunity for the city to showcase our waterfront and downtown nationally and internationally,” Martinez said in a Wednesday, April 5, email. “(Last year’s) attendance exceeded pre-pandemic numbers, and all indications are this year will meet or exceed last year’s excitement.

“If that’s the case,” the director added, “it’s safe to assume we anticipate similar, if not improved, economic impacts to the City and region.”


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