INDIANAPOLIS – If you ask me, the entire Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend at the Gateway Motorsports Park was a huge success. The entire team on both sides did a great job of promoting the event and it showed when 40,000+ spectators filled into the 1.25-mile track on Saturday night to watch the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
But, as always, some fans weren’t happy. Instead of basking in the huge success, they tried to bring the race down by complaining. See, that’s what race fans do best and that absolutely needs to stop. The reason races aren’t successful a lot of the times isn’t effort from the sanctioning body, the series or the track itself, it’s the fans.
“We want more ovals.”
You don’t show up.
When you do actually show up though, you start complaining.
See, I want this race at Gateway to stay on the schedule for a long, long time. The St. Louis race fans are owed that. It was a long 14 years since a race of this magnitude came to Gateway and Saturday night showed why this race has a chance to be the next Long Beach. The reason I compare Gateway to Long Beach is because we all know nothing can compare to the Indy 500 and it’s not fair to place a comparison to any other track/race to the year’s biggest race is all of motorsports. That’s a disservice and not a fair comparison.
But, Long Beach has been around now for 40+ years and arguably the second most prestigious race on the IndyCar calendar. Gateway, has a chance to build something here that they too can be around for a long time coming. Their entire staff rolled out the red carpet and made this a big race event. I’ve covered numerous races in both IndyCar and NASCAR the last several years and none of them had the impact and feel outside of the Indy 500 or Daytona 500 as Gateway’s race did this past weekend.
There was certainly a big buzz and the fans were riled up for it. From the pre race pyrotechnics to the three-wide salute, it was a perfect marriage ceremony. Now, lets not have an ugly divorce before we even got a chance.
Look no further than the 2011 Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway as a reference. Over 100,000 people bought tickets for that race in 2011. It was NASCAR’s premiere series coming to the “Bluegrass State.” The buzz for that race was similar to the one we saw at Gateway. But, parking issues plagued that spectacle and the overwhelming amount of complaints took the buzz out of that race as quickly as it started. The crowds were up this past July, but for the good amount of time at that track ever since, the crowds were virtually cut in half.
Now, we have fans complaining about parking at Gateway. Before I let this spiral out of control to a Kentucky situation, I feel it’s my right as a member of the media to address this and back the track on these problems. Here’s why.
The gates opened on Saturday at 12 p.m. CT. Green Flag for the IndyCar race at 9:45 p.m. ET. That’s over nine hours the track gave you all to get into the facility. Gateway Motorsports Park Executive Vice President and General Manager Chris Blair said they sent out a brochure and in it they said that they recommended a 3:30 pm CT arrival. They warned fans all week that they were expecting a crowd in excess of 30-35k spectators. Why would you think you could leave at 7:45 for an event 15 minutes away and expect to be in their seat at 7:59?
All ticketholders knew well in advance that this race was going to be a big event and that the grandstands would be virtually full. They also knew that this track was only a little over a mile in length. So, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that 35,000+ fans showing up to a 1.25-mile track with a buzz this big surrounding it, that you should probably show up early.
On top of that, the track provided parking updates throughout the day on their social media channels and a bunch of media members, myself included, shared those to you fans.
So, if you’re complaining about parking before the race, that’s on you. You either just didn’t pay any attention or expected something completely unfair.
As far as getting out, again, what do you expect? The track is reporting attendance around 40,000 spectators. When the race ends, that’s 40,000 people leaving at the same time. As Blair put it, “if 12,500 cars left a mall at the same time there would be delays.” He said that the track worked with IDOT and all the local agencies to clear our lots as fast as possible. He said he personally stayed on the top of spotters stand to give directions.
“When I went downstairs at 1 hr and 15 min. I was watching people walk to their cars, start up and get into the flow of traffic,” Blair continued. “I’ve yet to attend any big event where you get 40,000 people – with most leaving at once and there’s not traffic.”
He also said that their primary lot (drag strip pit area) was free flowing in just over 25 min after the checkered flag flew. Their main lots on west road were free flowing in just 40 minutes. He did acknowledge that there were some hiccups on north lot due to them getting the drag strip people out first. He said really the people that are complaining about the exit taking longer than they liked, either took the ‘free park’ option or were the last two arrive and had no option but the bad spot.
So, that should clear up any parking related issues.
Overall, he said that they’ve received about 10 complaints on traffic and 20 on concessions. He also had complaints about a sponsor viewing stand obstructing some views. Overall 31 out of 40,000 is pretty good to him and I agree.
That’s why social media can be so damaging. It would be portrayed that thousands of people were unhappy and the track is in the wrong when in all actuality, 31 people are complaining.
See how this could spiral out of control.
Follow the facts here people and don’t be afraid to show up next year. This is a must-see event and I promise you that you will have a great time.