Well, I put my money where my mouth is and I bought my tickets to the Milwaukee IndyFest the weekend of June 15-16. I'm really excited as Milwaukee is a race I have wanted to see for a while, and doubly pumped because it will be my 11-year-old son Kevin's first race.
After reading a couple of articles in the Milwaukee newspapers and hearing Michael Andretti on Trackside last night, it really seems like he feels he has a lot of good ideas that will make the race work, now and in the future. This isn't just another business venture to him, he is invested because of his appreciation of the history of open wheel racing in this country and how the Milwaukee Mile fits into that.
The Mile has also been very good to him, as he has reached victory lane there on eight occasions -- five times as an driver and three more as an owner.
His approach is going to be much different than past races, especially the debacle last year where a paltry crowd originally left the event off of the 2012 schedule. His idea of more community involvement has more of a road/street course feel to it, and maybe that is something that will broaden the appeal of the event.
It won't just be a race, he said, but a festival that will incorporate many other activities besides what is going on out on the track. It's obvious that just putting on a race doesn't do it any more, so why not add a few other things that will get people excited?
I think that is the right idea. During the summer I work for a local newspaper as a "beat" writer for the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and one of the most successful franchises in low minor league baseball. The Cougars learned long ago that just a baseball game wasn't necessarily what people wanted -- they want an experience of going to the game and being entertained as well.
The Cougars refer to their stadium as a "baseball Disney World" because the team appeals to families and provides other forms of entertainment such as on-field contests between innings, on-field entertainment and fireworks. It's pretty simple, when the team offers a lot of other things to do, people show up, sometimes to the tune of 13,000-15,000 on a warm night in the summer. When they don't offer much outside the game, the crowds are very, very small.
It's the same concept here. With a fan fest in the infield, and other activities such as a post-race concert, people can feel like there is more to do than just watch the race. Which is fine, because maybe some of them will like what they see and want to learn more about IndyCar. And if not, that's OK too because they helped that one stop on the series become a success.
I think people will like it because it features good weather (hopefully), cars, plenty to do and music. Add a little beer and some grilled food and you are set. Trust me, in this part of the country, this is what we do.
One other thing I like is that they are being very proactive in the social media front. The website is slick and well done (not to mention up to date, which is the subject of a post this weekend), and they have presence on Twitter (@MKE_IndyFest) and Facebook.
Another thing I like is that tickets are reasonable, and are even moreso for kids 12 and under. I didn't buy the best seats in the house, but before taxes and fees my two tickets to just get in the building only cost $43, which isn't bad.
Whether it works or not remains to be seen, but they key is that an effort is being made, which is way more than I have seen in year's past. It seems like a lot of IndyCar Nation is excited about this one, and I am looking forward to being a part of it.