Charlie Johnstone is the guy who pretty much runs the Honda Indy Toronto.
He has some fancy title like vice-president and general manager in the Andretti Green Promotions corporate directory, but his only real job is to make the Honda Indy Toronto a success both on and off the track.
With that in mind I’d like to offer Charlie a few suggestions on how to build on this past weekend’s markedly improved product down at Exhibition Place.
Before I start, however, in the spirit of transparency it is important to note that while I personally like Charlie, he and I are not pals in the sense he buys me lunch or drinks occasionally.
In fact, come to think of it, cheap Charlie has never bought me lunch or a single drink in the more than a decade I have known him. Not that I’m asking him to start now, I’m just saying the following suggestions haven’t been bought or paid for by my friend Charlie or his bosses at AGP.
1. The front grandstands were full on Sunday and that’s great. Those folks and the swells in the corporate boxes got a great view of the front stretch and the start-finish line as they noshed on free booze and snacks.
They also got to watch every corner of the racing action on the giant closed circuit television screens that lined that area of the track. But my peeps who were quenching their thirsts on their own dime in the Budweiser beer gardens tell me there was no giant TVs for them.
I took a walk past that area and was impressed with the size of the crowd. These are real fans Charlie; borrow one of the big screens from the corporate corner and place it where the working stiffs can enjoy the race with their beer.
2. Keep Free Friday. You ought to hold a parade for Arch Wilcox and his team from Honda Canada for pulling this off.
However, it might be worth considering giving the first day of the three-day festival of speed a little more weight, like maybe extending the practices and qualifying times for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
By the way, that was a great move to bring the stock cars back this year.
3. Now that the on-track stuff looks like it’s at least on its way back to glory years of the mid-1990s, you might want to turn your attention to the giant sink hole that was the Direct Energy Centre this year.
That place should be full — or even half full — of displays and fun things to do when the kids gets bored walking around the paddock. What happened to all those great displays that used to fill the place?
4: You need to put some thunder back into Thunder Alley. And yes, I’m CC-ing this to my bosses at the Toronto Sun.
This used to be a happening place for the young and drunk set.
I know the Budweiser people have been a great addition to the show but check out what they do at Montreal’s Canadian Grand Prix and ask them to do the same in Toronto.
There’s nothing like two dozen or so Bud girls turning up at your seats to make a young man remark that the Honda Toronto Indy was the best experience of his life.
5: Engage the downtown core with more than daily events at Yonge-Dundas Square. I know the city and the tourism groups pay a nice stipend to keep you in business but they get all that back and more with the world-wide television audience that ABC delivers with its coverage of the race. I’m told that even T.O. haters in cities like Edmonton were slack jawed at the kind of vistas of our city that were a big part of the race day broadcast.
That’s it Charlie. You’re welcome.