Mayer declined to say how many tickets had been sold for the event as of Monday, but in another first for the race, organizers began selling sharply discounted general admission tickets Monday on the deal website Living Social, a move they said was designed to draw people to the race who would not likely have attended otherwise.

"We're trying to target the Internet-savvy group," said John Lopes, president of Andretti Sports Marketing, noting that the deal is aimed at residents of nearby states. "It's a way for us to reach 3.5 million people outside of Baltimore."

More than 600 tickets had been sold through Living Social as of Monday evening, according to the site's count. Lopes said unlike last year's organizers, his company would not be giving away tickets.

Local business leaders, including those with the Orioles, said they have noticed and appreciate the company's efforts to address problems, and said communication between them and Race On officials has been far better than with last year's race operator, Baltimore Racing Development.

That communication, in turn, has led to collaborative approaches to perceived problems, such as unpredictable restrictions on pedestrian traffic for weeks before last year's races, they said.

"They've done a better job of making downtown more easy to navigate," said Kevin Cummings, the Orioles' director of ballpark operations, who said Orioles fans park their cars throughout the downtown area and were at times left confused or frustrated with race preparations last year.

Race On has made it a point to keep pedestrian paths between the light rail and Camden Yards open through Thursday night, Aug. 30, Cummings said, and has provided the Orioles with detailed information as to when restrictions will occur.

The Orioles have seven home games between this Friday and the Grand Prix, and are battling for a postseason spot for the first time in years.

"The team is playing better, the games that we have currently leading up to the Grand Prix event are potentially a whole lot more meaningful than they may have been in previous years, so that makes it even more important for us to protect that experience," Cummings said.

The Ravens also have a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium this Thursday.

Fowler said the best of all the changes is the early end to the races, which should mean that more Grand Prix attendees will stay in the city for dinner.

He said improvements to access points in and out of the race venue will also benefit local business owners. Last year, many people who might have patronized a downtown business or restaurant did not because they didn't want to go through the hassle of getting in and out of the race venue, Fowler said.

Some of the changes are based on a better understanding of the nature of the crowd at the Grand Prix, said the city's Maloney.

"It wasn't a Preakness crowd. We didn't have an abundance of alcohol consumption or things of that nature," Maloney said. "Given the family orientation of the event, and given that we didn't have any major [problem], we're going to adjust our resources accordingly."

Maloney said city emergency officials are excited about working this year's Grand Prix.

"The two things the city has to worry about is the large number of people in the downtown area and being able to manage that, and also the implications of that effect on the rest of the city," Maloney said. "Collectively in public safety, we worked so hard on this event and it turned out so well that I think from the officer to the firefighter, everybody is happy that we're doing it again."

Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.

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