June 4, 2013 at 1:18 am

Terry Foster

Festival feel would add to the Grand Prix

Fans filled the grandstands for last Sunday's IndyCar race, but adding music would bring non-race fans to the Grand Prix, too. (John T. Greilick/Detroit News)

Detroit The woman was jumping up and down, screaming about the Bret Michaels concert a night earlier. She was a concession worker and stayed for the entire event, went home to get some sleep and returned the next day for her final shift.

“I am still tired,” she said. “Oh, I had a great time. It was great here.”

She didn’t mention the racing that went on at Belle Isle — back-to-back days of 70-lap IndyCar events.

It was all about the music.

Her thoughts are a reflection of how sports have evolved. We don’t go to basketball games. We go to a music concert where there just happens to be an NBA game.

Now, it’s time for the Grand Prix leaders to follow suit as they attempt to grow the event for casual and non-race fans.

“This is an opportunity for us to get the non-fan here,” said Bud Denker, senior vice president for Penske Corp. “Once you get somebody here they come back. Nobody has an idea of how this place looks. It is a relevant point. It is something we can do better.”

It can get better

The planners do a wonderful job of attracting sponsors, who fill the chalets and other high-end private viewing with fans and employees. And fans, even on a cloudy day when rain threatened, filled the stands.

But imagine if there was a full-day music festival involved?

Encourage people to buy a music ticket, bring a lawn chair and sit around the stage. And when the race is going on, they could watch it on giant screens behind the stage or in a nearby tent.

This way, you’re bringing non-race fans to an event who might actually get hooked on the sport. After all, you’ll still have race fans watching trackside.

“I would love to see more concerts for kids, not that we don’t have enough,” said Charles Burns, general manager of the Grand Prix. “We can have I don’t want to say a party, but a festival.”

Simply, it’s time to get the party started.

terry.foster@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-1494
twitter.com/terryfoster971