Whether the Grand Prix of Baltimore, which will be run for a third time this Labor Day weekend, can survive depends on two factors:
First, drawing and establishing fans of open-wheel racing during a time when the sport has struggled to keep people interested.
Second, appeasing downtown businesses hurt by having the streets turned into a race track for the month of August.
Organizers have taken many steps toward solving the first problem, moving an area for children inside -- away from the heat and noise -- and promising to book more entertainment options.
Now, they're taking steps toward fixing the many hurt feelings left after last year's hastily arranged event.
Race On LLC has announced a partnership with Kona Grill to sell a three-day race package that will give fans prime seats and meals at the restaurant -- located on Pratt Street near the first turn -- on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets for the Kona Grill Turn One Club will cost $275 for adults and $225 for children, and include a paddock pass. By comparison, a three-day ticket with the best reserved seats cost $185 and a three-day paddock pass runs $45. (Full ticket information can be found here.)
“Kona Grill is an exceptional restaurant that is located along one of the racecourse’s most dynamic stretches," Grand Prix of Baltimore general manager Tim Mayer said in a news release. "With access to top-level seating in Grandstand 3, club members will experience the thrill of seeing drivers go from full throttle down Pratt Street and then shift into agility mode as they navigate the first hard-right turn and attempt to move to the front of the pack.”
Last year, a manager at Kona Grill said that increased Labor Day crowds helped the company set sales record for that weekend in 2011, the first year the race was run. But that extra revenue merely made up for customers scared aware by construction during the weeks leading up to the race.
The same manager said on Sunday of last year's race weekend that the crowds had been less robust and business not as brisk.
Other restaurant managers in the area complained that race organizers had excluded them from planning and made it inconvenient for patrons to reach their restaurants.
Mayer said then that establishing better working relationships with the race's many neighbors would be a priority. He's reached at least one of them.
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