So the event itself…

was not much of an event at all. Aside from zero general promotion until the Tuesday of race week, there was also distinct lack of fanfare when you arrived onsite.
I don’t even know why I’m about to bother with the following post, other than the persistent nudging from my inbox to “tell me what you thought!!”

so here goes I guess… Just a little snippet of what I saw, heard, felt..

Gone was the giant “Welcome Race Fans” inflatable, the turn styles, the souvenir stand, the program hawkers…
In it’s place two guys yelling at cars and a line of rent-a-cops in yellow shirts that looked more like they were blocking the entrance than welcoming you to what used to be a world class event.

Inside the door a couple of tables with photo copied signs. One where you could buy tickets (in theory, if you had the patience to wait while they tallied your purchase by abacus) and one for will call. But don’t try to leave tickets at said will call for anyone. It’s not “that” kind of will call. (WTF kind is it then?!) Imagine how happy I was when I found out that I couldn’t leave the free tickets (gold seats I was handed the night before by someone in the organization to attempt to paper the place on Saturday) at the Will Call, but rather had to walk the half hour from the Pitlane to the front door once my guests arrived. (see you could no longer access the pitlane from both ends this year, or at the mid point) (oh not wait, if you were a relative or a pit lizard you could access midway, but we in the media who HAD to be on pitlane to do our jobs had to walk to the far end to access it…) (but I digress)

Oh and don’t try to find customer service either. There was none. That’s right, the one thing that made this event stand apart head & shoulders over the others, the amazing Customer Service, was but a memory.

Now the talking heads, who got real good at pissing into the wind and telling us it was raining all weekend, insisted there was tons of “activation” pre-event. Yes, if you drink bud, by the case apparently, there where promotions on that.

Firstly, who the fuck drinks Bud if they aren’t forced to at a sporting event.
Secondly, what about the rest of the population that doesn’t fall into whatever that demographic is?
There were no posters or billboards or banners or flags anywhere!
I finally saw a few Budweiser “Welcome Race Fans” signs go up on race week at select bars in the city.
No Subway/TTC activation, other than one IZOD Streetcar which I didn’t see until race weekend.

Gone was the grandstand lined, majestic front stretch. In it’s place ONE grandstand, half the height, with a lovely view of the now TREE Lined front straight.
Gone was the huge turn 10 double beer garden, in it’s place a big open empty area, and a tiny Hooters beer garden.
Gone was the large variety of vendors and food. In it’s place Pizza Pizza stands.
Gone was the nightly off track events, parties, charity events, balls, street parties. (Thank you Hinch for caring enough to throw a post race party!)
Gone was the ATMOSPHERE!! In it’s place, emptiness and silence by 6:30pm each night. I kid you not.

The layout was so bad and awkward and uninviting, I stopped walking the grounds. (not that I had a lot of time to do so anyway cause the half hour walk back to the media centre meant I was mostly held hostage on pitlane so as not to miss any of the action or the shots I needed to get during each session)

The media centre… lol… well, since I have done both Indy and Watkin’s Glen recently, let me tell you… much improvement is needed there.
While they finally took the step of putting the media room and the press conference room in one, :thumbsup: Yay! they dropped the ball with feeding us. (Something that Toronto is notorious for other than the final CC year when they actually feed us half decently)

In addition to the food being mediocre at best (if and when there was any at the times that you could actually eat), there was no place to actually sit and eat it, other than to try to balance it on your lap while sitting in front of your computer in the media room. And true to form, there wasn’t a bottle of water to be found on Raceday. Apparently the fact that it’s July and we work outside for hours at a time failed to register on the caterer, who I’m guessing from the reaction of the AGR folks won’t be hired back next year. Luckily I was able to grab a couple of sports drinks from the Conquest gang post race (yes POST race, approximately 9hrs after I arrived that morning) so I didn’t pass out from dehydration.

I have to give huge kudos to AGR’s Tip Nunn who was on top of everything for us in the media all weekend though. (you go “Big Daddy”)

I was really REALLY hoping to be chowing down on a giant plate of crow this week, having been proved wrong and attending a fabulous event, but alas, I can save the crow recipes for another day.

I don’t want to rip on my home race, any more than I wanted to see it presented with such a lack of… I can’t even think of an appropriate word.

I spent the weekend with visiting media asking me what the deal was, and all I could do is shrug silently. Then I just bit my tongue while those in charge shoveled enough PR lies and bullshit to fill the Direct Energy Centre 3 times over down our throats. My favorite moment was being told to my face that they didn’t give away one ticket this weekend. Funny I said to the person, I was personally handed 5 free tickets from a stack of at least a hundred, to which I was greeted with gaping mouthed silence.
I’m the wrong person to attempt PR spin on. Trust me.

I made the mistake of taking a stroll through my photos of Toronto Indys gone by. It just gave me a lump in my throat. Even the last two CC events, that were on the decline ironically, looked like the Indy 500 comparatively.

I can only hope that the epic failure of waiting until the last minute while arrogantly depending on the misguided notion of Torontonian’s blindly accepting anything thrown at us and coming back in droves, quality be damned, will make “them” sit up and take notice and put a little effort into it next year, because what I saw this weekend was like charging the paddles to 300 and resuscitating a DNR patient… and that breaks my heart.

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27 responses to “So the event itself…

  1. In my opinion, this is the problem with many of the races. I grew up in SoCal so I was usually at Long Beach every year. That race rocks. Car show including hot rods, vintage race cars, sprint cars, SuperJaps, road race cars, car stereo shows, quarter midgets, shifter karts, food, beer, many different races, etc. You could attend this event and not see the race and it’d be good. Plus, there was the Trans Am race, lights, celebrity, and the big show. It’s a big event that even non-race fans look forward to and enjoy.

    Then, I moved to the East Coast and went to Nazareth. It was a race, not an event. There should be more going on than just the race if I am going to haul 3 hours each way. I brought a gal (non-race fan) and it was a tough sell. That was never a problem at Long Beach.

    It’s a downward spiral: no effort/atmosphere/promotion means fewer people. Fewer people means no money for next year’s effort/atmosphere/promotion. Circling the toilet…

    • It’s a big event that even non-race fans look forward to and enjoy.

      That’s what T.O. used to be.

      It’s a downward spiral: no effort/atmosphere/promotion means fewer people. Fewer people means no money for next year’s effort/atmosphere/promotion. Circling the toilet…

      hopefully they’ll figure that out before it’s too late.

  2. First of all, “Firstly, who the fuck drinks Bud if they aren’t forced to at a sporting event.” Hey-hey-hey … easy there. I can say I wouldn’t drink Bud in Canada if Molson Canadian was available, if that helps. Second, I’m sorry you were disappointed in the home race, Meesh. I had the same rage issues the first race here in Iowa was such a kluged up clusterF*CK that I missed half the race. But it got fixed the next season, thankfully. Do you think AGR cheaped out on the event or they just didn’t have any sponsors or what? The only way it will improve is if people bitch about it this year, so speak it, sister.

    • Hey, I wouldn”t drink Canadian either… :-p

      I think that AGR took the subsidy money and coasted, doing the bare minimum required to put on the event. At least that is how it looked to me.

      This isn’t even one iota of the many things done wrong this past weekend. The thing is… if the mainstream is spewing out rainbows and fluffy bunnies, then some bitching in an opinion blog ain’t gonna amount to a hill of beans. Not to mention, “they” don’t see anything as wrong. They believe their own PR spin that this weekend was a huge success.

      I sort of wish I was heading to Edmonton now to cleanse my palate.

  3. Eek. I have nothing else to add. You said it well.

  4. I think pressdog is right on this. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out the massive FUBAR at this event in 2009, but it’s up to the AGR promotions to make improvements for 2010.

    On the flipside, it was an amazing race. I’ve never been so enthralled with a street race in my life. With the most side-by-side racing we’ve seen all year happening this past weekend I think my universe is about to collapse upon itself.

  5. i agree whole-heartedly with everything you said, Meesh.

    so sad, yet so true…

  6. Meesh, did you talk to any of the TSN people over the course of the weekend? How impressed were they that the IZOD/Honda Indy streetcar had “Watch the race on ABC” splashed all over it? TSN did at least a little bit of promotion leading up the race, with driver interviews and ads on their website – after that slap in the face by the promoter, they would be justified in reconsidering any type of partnership for next year.

    • I did, but not about that. Sorry BooBoo, after the way that TSN has treated open wheel racing like the ugly stepchild for years, can’t say I feel sorry for them not getting the nod on a streetcar.

  7. Hope you’re a photographer instead of a journalist because it’s “its” not “it’s” like you wrote — maddeningly — throughout. Do you not have any money in your pockets that you either have to beg for freebies from teams or die of thirst (and whine about it)? Yup, Toronto sucked this year. Crowds were missing, so was buzz. But my god, you are whiny!!

    • Hope you’re a photographer instead of a journalist because it’s “its” not “it’s” like you wrote — maddeningly — throughout.

      Hey, I got it right once!! 😉 If I had known I was getting a visit from the literary police I would have dressed for the occasion.

      I do both actually, but no worries, I won’t submit this to the Giller Prize committee, so your path to journalistic domination is clear.

      Do you not have any money in your pockets that you either have to beg for freebies from teams or die of thirst (and whine about it)?

      Yes, but standing in line for a half an hour at one of two stands en route is sort of counter productive to doing the job I was there to do. FYI, I didn’t beg, but was offered by a friend.

      You say whiny, I say opinionated, P-Dog says “Brassy”. Different strokes and all that…

      Here’s a little tip: press the back button in your browser, delete browsing history, clear cache, never be subjected to my blog or writing again.
      “it’s” that easy 🙂

    • Umm… did you see the link to Open Wheel World.net writer? And, to call someone whinny by whinning about then on their Blog is kinda funny.

  8. Why can’t trolls just stay under the bridge?

  9. I’m sure AGR Promotions should have done more to promote the race, but I think the blame for all the things you found missing goes back on the people of Toronto. AGR Promotions can’t hype the event all by themselves, it takes the full support of the city and the surrounding areas to make a race a successful event. And since they couldn’t even sell enough tickets to fill the small grandstands they erected, why would they want to waste money building it like it was? This was the year for Torontonians to show up in droves. As stated before, now it’s just part of the downward spiral. I also don’t buy your argument that the people that had attended the race in the past didn’t show up b/c they didn’t know about it b/c AGR promotions didn’t spend the money they needed to.

    And to me, as a fan, reading about complaints that I wasn’t given good free food and no free bottles of water does come across whiney.

    • What is it with you people and the flipping water?! What can I tell you. I’ve been covering open wheel on site at events for 6 yrs . It is not unreasonable to expect a bottle of water for my efforts. Even Tip Nunn, the AGR guy (who I’ve given big props to) who was in charge of the media room was incredulous by the bad catering. If I was bitching about a lack of cocktail hour or champagne & caviar you might have a right to be so indignant.

      Now as to us Torontonians showing up in droves, why would we? Our event was unceremoniously dumped last year, then flew under the radar until about a week ago.

      I knew what was happening as I sought out the information. (no small feat there either, but that’s a rant for another day) (or a “whine” for you sensitive types)

      Trust me, the casual fan/event goer had NO clue there was an event going on until the Tuesday of race week. Hell, I personally had to explain to numerous people that the race was that weekend. This isn’t only my observation either, several of the returning media who had attended this event in the past noticed a huge difference in the promotion and the level of general awareness that was commonplace here. Hell, you used to be able to get in a cab and have the driver tell you all about the race weekend and who was gonna win. This year, they didn’t have a clue what was going on. And as others have said, this event was competing against other well advertised & publicized events happening at the same time.

      Again, as to it being our fault for not filling the grandstands… They likely would have had they not gutted the place and removed all of the good seats. I know for a fact that most of my friends and acquaintances couldn’t have bought their seats if they wanted to as they no longer existed. (mine were also gone) On top of that you couldn’t actually select your seats. You could select a price range, and hope for the best…

      Even the general admission was sparse. People who enjoy racing (like most Canadians) don’t want to stand beside a fence all day. They want to purchase prime seats, with prime views , all of which were pretty much gone. Can’t fault us for not buying something which didn’t exist.

  10. Oh dear.

  11. I figured we’d eventually get around to blaming the customer for not buying the product. I totally reject the idea that Torontonians (or any other group of consumers) owe the IndyCar series anything. Tornoto residents have zillions of things competing for their entertainment dollar. If Toronto race officials don’t want to compete for that dollar, fine. But don’t blame the city for not buying a sub-standard product. To me the most damaging thing Meesh mentioned was the poor customer service/experience. Nothing will kill event like people having a bad time at it. At this point, I think the IndyCar Series needs Tornoto much more than Toronto needs the series.

  12. Oh, how I enjoy the Bernie Ecclestone “it’s the customer’s fault they aren’t buying” mentality. In his case, he wonders why F1 doesn’t work in America when he does NO PROMOTION HIMSELF! Yaaaay!

    Speaking of blind PR people, you couldn’t have just once climbed up Bmo Field and pitched the radio network people off? There were times this past weekend and many weekends previous where I’ve wanted to punch my laptop for the silliness that comes out of its speakers. Where’s Paul Page when we need him…

  13. Wow, it’s like some of the Nascar/f1 pr people showed up and started commenting about how it’s really the fans fault.

  14. I went to the race, and have been a regular at the event pretty much since it started.
    Was I disapointed with this years event? Not as disapointed as I would of been if there had been no race at all.
    I bought general admission, Thunder Alley tickets after I was told that the super photo pass that I always buy wasn’t available this year. That really bummed me out!
    Then on Friday I took a walk by the gold section and to my surprise, I got in! I thought I had pulled a fast one, so I tried it again on Saturday and it worked again. (I remember in previous years, all grandstand were open on Friday, for everyone to check out.) Then on Sunday while crossing over the bridge, I was handed tickets to the gold grandstands and watched the race from there as well.
    So for the price of a GA ticket, I spent my weekend in the gold seats.
    It was only after the race I realized that it didn’t matter what tickets you bought for this event, there was no security manning the entrance to any grandstand to check you tickets.
    It also makes sense that the are no accurate crowd numbers for the 3 days because how could you tell when you give the tickets away, and let anyone just walk into any grandstand they want to.
    As for the event itself, with 10 being the hey day in the mid-90’s, I would have to give this a 1 out of 10. The entertainment between races, (that being the merchandise, and beer tents) made the Steelback Grandprix of Toronto look good compared to this years sorry attempt.
    The grounds looked empty. There were more sight lines then ever before, because where once there were grandstands, now there were none. It was all confined to one area inside the track. I didn’t even realize there was stuff inside the Enbridge building until Saturday.
    But that being said, I’m glad open wheel racing is back in Toronto. I still had a blast last weekend, drank the crappy Bud, and cheered “Thrilla” on till Twinkle Toes took him out. And then I joined in with the boos when he came into the pits. For those few laps when Tags and Tracy were running one — two, we were all on the edge of our seats, cheering them on. And as far as the actual race went, it was a great one.
    I just wish more people had been there to see it.

    • That comment right there should be forwarded to AG promotions and the IRL, along with Meesh’s observations. That said it all very well.

      Here’s hoping for a better Edmonton and that the people at AG notice how a well-planned and promoted race is accomplished…and they can see the difference.

  15. When I first got on message boards related to open-wheel racing, there was that whole debate about the merits of putting on an event in addition to the race and how effective that was in cultivating race fans. While I initially thought that some of the extraneous stuff took away from the action on track (I’m there for a race, you know), going to Cleveland a couple of years ago definitely changed my mind. While being able to experience the action was fantastic, it’s that other stuff that kept me from twiddling my thumbs between sessions. It made a good experience, watching racing live, even better. Though I do at times cringe at some of the sensory overload, it’s often better to be too engaging than not engaging enough.*

    *I know I said I had nothing else to say but everyone else seemed to be in a chatty mood so I decide to get into the action.

  16. Not that we needed confirmation 🙂 but I am even more glad that Ange and I didn’t waste our time and money (even at the discounted Canadian dollars…) going to Toronto.

    Lime Rock was an absolute blast. Ton of atmosphere. Ton of no hassles. Ton of excitement. Ton of fun. I haven’t enjoyed myself watching racing that much in a long, long time … and not just because of all the girl watching on a warm, sunny day…

    I’m still an open wheel diehard, but ALMS is anything but a cheap alternative. And there’s still a lot of open wheel support series to go with it. And ALMS *knows* how to put on an event, and they hook up with tracks/promoters who *know* how to put on an event.

  17. Hey man,

    Just wanted to add to the fiasco since this is the only real press I can see about the event online.

    The staffers who were hired to serve food and drinks in the corporate boxes have never been paid for their time. The staffing firm used, Special T Staffing, is now gone from the office they used to recruit the temps and both of their phone numbers have been disconnected.

    This was a complete failure from top to bottom.

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