For some, watching the 39th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is all about where you sit - and the options are plentiful.
First, there is the standard $28 general admission ticket for Friday for unreserved seating - and those in the known can even score a free Friday ticket by picking up a Press-Telegram on the Friday of the race weekend.
But for the race fans for whom "money-is-no-object," organizers offered special seating with panoramic views, air conditioning, food-and-drink specials and limited access to drivers and pit crews.
The $495 Vista Club package offers a three-day seat from the roof of the 17-story Hyatt Regency Long Beach that comes with breakfast and a buffet lunch. The $875 Pit Lane Club features a canopied suite overlooking the Pit Lane with food and a full open bar.
For corporate types looking to woo clients or reward hard-working employees, there's the $45,500 Pit Row Suites and the $15,750 Seaside Suites, with packages accommodating 30-45 people on race weekend.
Many feature double partitions, fully enclosed and air-conditioned outdoor seating, food and beverage service and full-circuit TV monitors.
Those suites, which race organizers upgraded four years ago at the height of the recession, have been selling out since, said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.
"These corporate suites sold out almost immediately again this year," Michaelian said. "There are very limited tickets left for both the Vista Club and the Pit Lane Club - and unlike previous years, a lot of these tickets are going to individuals and small groups. "
Michaelian said these suites are "fully loaded."
Seats such as the Pit Lane Club give those lucky few not only a view of the pit lane but also limited access to the pits.
"These ticket holders can actually see the crews doing their job on pit lane," he said. "Obviously, with that type of access, those seats are very attractive. "
And this year, race organizers added Pit Lane Club suites on both sides to maximize the amount of tickets they could provide to customers.
"Selling out on these tickets is a very good sign for not only race weekend, but the economy in general," Michaelian said. "To prove that point, we are selling more and more of these types of suite experiences to individuals than every before. "
Michaelian said the suites are designed to provide the best race weekend experience possible.
"Those were all designed primarily for people who want to come and have a great experience and enjoy the event as well as the hospitality," he said. "The ability to put together a group of your friends or acquaintances or your business associates and have them incorporated into that hospitality experience. "
Last year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach saw the best ticket sales in seven years, and Michaelian said sales are on track to meet those same numbers, and depending on weather, beat them. However, the Grand Prix annually declines to release ticket sales information.
"Sales have been very strong, in fact, remarkably so," he said. "If sales continue, and we have good weather, there is no doubt we will beat last year's sales and possibly have some of the best numbers yet. "
Grand Prix officials said sales for the race have always been very consistent, but in 2011 the association made a change and partnered with Tix.com, a Long Beach based ticket company, to provide a new ticketing feature.
"When we made the change and partnered with Tix.com, race fans were able to view and buy any grandstand seat from their lap tops and smart phones," he said. "It has been a great addition to our overall ticketing program - and a real benefit to our event and race fans. "
Tix.com is the official sponsor and ticketing service provider for the annual downtown seaside racing event April 19-21.
Race officials launched the online system three years ago for returning race fans who wanted to renew their seats.
"It's a major step for us and so far the integration has been almost perfect," Michaelian said. "It really changes the way we sell tickets, and makes purchasing tickets a lot easier for race fans. "
In the past, race goers had to call the box office and order tickets, then either pick them up or have them mailed. The Grand Prix previously worked with Ticket Master, offering a limited selection of tickets online. Now, race fans can print their tickets from home and have them scanned at the event.
Box office operations are open for those who prefer that option.
Tickets are on sale now for the 39th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and can be purchased at the Grand Prix ticket office by calling (888) 82-SPEED or by using the Tix service at gplb.com.
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