Tour hints at Edmonton Indy upgrades

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:33 PM ET

The fans, 95% of whom pour out from the I'ile Ste Helene subway stop, enter Circuit Gilles Villeneuve by crossing the Pont du Cosmos bridge.

As they walk across the bridge to the site of the Canadian Grand Prix, they're greeted by 24 banners on the light standards, each featuring a drawing of a Formula One driver by a Quebec artist.

Something similar is being planned for the entrances to the Edmonton Indy July 22-24.

At the end of the bridge the fans are greeted by a large video board with a message from promoter Francois Dumontier and then every single F1 driver who is racing here this weekend welcomes them to the Canadian Grand Prix.

A camera team is being dispatched to the Milwaukee Mile to gather the same greetings from the 27 or 28 IndyCar drivers.

As you pass that location, you notice that the stands are remarkably full for a Friday practice day. That doesn't happen often anywhere on the F1 circuit. But at this race, which sold out all available seats Thursday at 5 p.m., it's normal. This will become the 10th consecutive race here which will draw over 300,000 for the three-day weekend.

Normand Prieur, who provided a golf cart tour of the Canadian Grand Prix to show me what the differences will be when the Octane Motorsport Event group which runs this race takes over the Indy event in Edmonton, says they're going to be stubborn about that.

While he is hopeful of a sellout of the stands at the Edmonton race, too, he said even if there are seats left unsold this year or in future years, they will not sell single-day race tickets.

One of the many mistakes Northlands made in their three years of doing that, was putting single-day tickets on sale and doing it weeks prior to the race.

The three-day ticket package is normal for road races throughout the world.

People may give their Friday tickets away to friends and family if they have to work, but all that does is create new customers.

Selling a Sunday ticket by itself is also an insult to anybody who bought the three days, he explained.

But mostly it's because, done right, he said, it's a three-day experience.

Rounding the corner to the Budweiser Beer Garden ("We'll have a big beer garden, too, but I can't say which brewing company yet," said Prieur.)

Behind the stands in that area is a "Service a la Clientele" booth.

"We started that last year. We have four of them here this year and we'll have three in Edmonton," said Dominique Fauteau, director of ticketing, marketing and customer relations for both races.

"It's a trouble shooter station. A solution-maker station. It worked unbelievable well last year. Instead of trying to fix something next year, we were able to create immediate solutions."

Another major difference at Edmonton Indy this year, will be the night and day one which people who invest in suites will discover.

"We couldn't believe the suites last year in Edmonton," said Prieur. "They had the speakers at the back of the suites and you couldn't hear them. In auto racing, with the noise, they have to be at the front."

The suites here are massive.

They feature six rows of press table-type seating with an entire restaurant-like setting behind them.

"We have six rows here. We'll cut that to four rows in Edmonton. The hospitality area will be 30 feet instead of the 40 feet here. But it will still be way more spacious and luxurious than it was last year in Edmonton," said Julie Rioux-Paquette, director of corporate services. "And people will also notice a dramatic difference in our bathrooms.

"Last year, in a suite for 50 people, there were only 24 seats to watch the race. This year there will be 48. There will be flat screen TVs instead of box TVs and the food ... We allow our customers to choose the menu instead of having an enforced menu. We put a lot of money into food."

And behind all of that, will be a terrace. There has never been a terrace for previous suites at the Edmonton Indy.

Francois Dumontier, the head of Octane, has been trying to explain the difference Edmonton fans will experience for months. But you really have to see it to believe it.

These people really do know what they're doing.

While the Edmonton Indy has been an artistic success for the first six years, it has never been run by anybody who knew what they were doing before.

Vive la difference.

Twitter.com/sunterryjonesterry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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