Part One yesterday lamented an apathetic neglect of quality oval venues in IndyCar today. Even a cursory look at venue balance over time validates the theory. If we assume really good attendance for an IndyCar oval event outside Indianapolis is 45,000 the question remains how can that be attained and consistently repeated? Application of a ‘boutique’ approach could be a definitive step in the right direction.
With 45,000 as a goal how would a boutique experience work?
- Existing big, permanent center main grandstands would remain. Those would immediately become the ‘cheap seats’ with about 20,000 as maximum capacity.
- Traditional suites with all the benefits (and expense) would also remain or get added to accommodate a minimum of 2,000 people depending on the venue.
- Enhanced camping experiences could accommodate a few hundred RVs, tents or other camping for additional minimum 2,000 people.
- Include sponsored picnic and/or party zones to accommodate both families and younger fans. Both concepts work well at IMS. Keep capacity at around 2,500 for each area.
- The boutique sweet spot is the addition of either twelve permanent and/or temporary smaller stands with a capacity of no more than 1,400 each. Small sizes could vary depending on location, amenities and pricing opportunities but all would be intimate.
These would be no ordinary stands. Each elevated stand would be located high above outside turns. Depending on location and sun angle as many as possible (preferably all) would be shaded and covered. Seats would be configured to accommodate the increased girth of fans today with plenty of space and pitch between seats and rows. The top portion of each would be covered platforms with food, a bar and merchandise. Space would be large enough to accommodate tables. Areas underneath stands could also be used as shaded picnic areas with plenty of tables and views of the track and not just the underside of a grandstand. Each stand would contain their own set of restrooms, and smaller adjacent parking areas would be allocated near each for ticket holders in those stands with in and out access to vehicles.
On race weekends specific drivers and teams would be assigned to each stand to interact with fans. Sponsor involvement would also be encouraged and facilitated.
Fans that purchase small stand tickets would be easily connected using any device or provider. High definition audio visual displays would carry not only the action, but technical data as well.
- Following the lead of drag racing, every ticket sold would include garage area access. Each ticket sold would be good for all three days at one price.
- It would be mandatory for each ladder series to race. Partnerships with other racing entities, whether USAC, Robby Gordon’s Super Trucks or something else would be encouraged. The goal would be to have something competitive on the track every hour of each race weekend day.
The real goal is to present an entire weekend of activity for anyone at a reasonable cost. A component that is necessary but would no doubt be most problematic for IndyCar is the concept of finding a dance partner for race weekends. This would be a partner with complementary demographics but not necessarily in the racing genre. Both IndyCar and the dance partner would need to commit to aggressively promoting each other.
Weekends would feature a continuous calendar of events from Friday through Sunday. No idle time would be planned.
A suggestion made here in the past serves as a good example. This is not offered as a potential solution. It is merely an example of thinking in wider terms to create events. The example is barbecue. What is more American during summer? Partner with or organize a competitive barbecue circuit that goes to ovals with IndyCar. Each competition would have podiums, winners and championships. Potential sponsor involvement is tantalizing. Imagine a corporate entity such as, say, Johnsonville sponsoring both at oval events. How about a national grocer such as Kroger? A joint commercial partner seems vital. Imagine a new IndyCar event at the intriguing oval outside Memphis early in May when that city hosts the Indy 500 of barbecue competition.
The more reasons IndyCar gives fans to attend the more people they are likely to draw. More people attending events increases popularity. When the circuit(s) are not in their geographic area the more likely they are to watch on television if they have been sold on the experience.
It all, of course, boils down to money. Who gets what and how much? Who pays for it? Typically IndyCar wants it all AND a hefty sanctioning fee. Broader approaches are needed to increase revenue outside Indy. I am not sure it would ever happen given the personalities and lawyers involved but if asked someone could certainly craft some really spiffy PowerPoint filled with pretty graphs and short attention span bullet points then dazzle the suits with all the untapped potential. I would be surprised if some variation of the idea has not already occurred to them. It just needs to become actionable.
One thing is certain. Kill ovals and this niche sport will either die or become an even smaller niche. Given the recent takeover of F-1 by Liberty Media (with aspirations toward definitive expansion in North America) and Apple’s rumored investment in McLaren the time for IndyCar to act is now.
Milwaukee the week after Indy and Pikes Peak any time.