Both city and race officials count the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix as a success, but when it comes to tallying the number of people who attended the three-day event, there was not as much agreement.
Dale Dillon, general manager of the Baltimore Grand Prix, estimated the weekend crowd at 150,000 to 160,000 over three days. He said an exact number will be difficult to calculate because general admission ticket sales far exceeded expectations and those tickets, unlike reserved seats, are not scanned.
In addition, the main ticket booth was without power for about an hour and a half during the weekend and sales data for that period was lost.
Instead, Dillon explained, areas of the crowd were photographed, heads were counted, and the number was extrapolated over the entire area of the racecourse. A firmer number of attendees was expected possibly as early as Tuesday.
However, over the weekend, the Baltimore Police Department estimated that 15,000 attended Friday and 40,000 Saturday, but did not offer an estimate for Sunday.
Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said Monday that the city was waiting for the final numbers from race organizers. He said the earlier figures were not for gauging attendance.
"Those were estimates for public safety only," Guglielmi said, adding that the numbers were actually calculated by the Fire Department.
However, race organizers have said police low-balled crowd counts for the first two days.
Ryan O'Doherty, spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the police attendance figures were preliminary.
"We are comfortable with BRD's [Baltimore Racing Development] attendance estimates, especially based on the feedback from Indy and other national sources familiar with these kinds of events," he said in an email. "Over the next several weeks, we will be analyzing actual ticket revenue — not quantity of tickets — from which the city's admissions and amusement tax is based."
O'Doherty said the turnout exceeded the city's expectations, as well as that of motorsports analysts.
Dillon agreed, adding that Versus, the television network, estimated Sunday's crowd at 75,000.
Versus also told race organizers that Sunday's event was its highest-rated IndyCar event, topping previous broadcasts by 59 percent and boosting the season's IndyCar ratings by 25 percent.
"I have been involved in racing for 30 years. I have done St. Pete and Toronto. And I have never seen anything like this," Dillon said. "It really showed off Baltimore to the rest of the country."
He attributed the success of the race to the compact geography of the event, surrounding well-known Baltimore sports and tourist venues that are familiar to so many, with plenty of hotels and restaurants within walking distance of the course.
"When you have to get people to tracks 20, 30 miles outside the city, it gets tougher and tougher," he said. "When you bring the race to the fans, it is a whole different dynamic. People loved the convenience of this event."
Dillon said he expects to meet with city officials this week to discuss next year's race, but added that people on the Grand Prix side of the table are more than enthusiastic.
"Roger Penske said it was one of the greatest street events he had ever been to," Dillon said of the racing team owner. "And from Mr. Penske, that is some compliment."
Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.
Crowd estimates for Grand Prix vary
Organizers confident that more than 100,000 attended three-day event
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