Preparations are underway for Long Beach’s largest event, the Acura Grand Prix, a weekend that draws upward of 200,000 attendees to Downtown.
Last year, when the event returned to its typical April time slot for the first time since 2019, over 188,000 people attended the weekend festivities, a number that Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President Jim Michaelian suspects could be topped this year, based on current sales numbers.
“We’re actually trending slightly ahead of where we were last year, which, if that continues on, certainly is a strong indicator that this year’s event will be just as or even more successful than it was last year,” said Michaelian. “We’re very delighted about the way sales have been going so far.”
The Grand Prix, which is returning for the 48th year from April 14 to April 16, is an opportunity to showcase Long Beach, Michaelian said.
Between the 500 media partners who report on the race, along with a substantial social media effort, the Grand Prix demonstrates the growth and development of Long Beach over nearly 50 years, Michaelian said.
According to Michaelian, the Grand Prix produces about nine hours of television coverage, which is shown both nationally and internationally, and for the second year in a row, the headlining IndyCar race will be shown on NBC. This is significant both for its viewership and for the opportunity for viewers to see what Long Beach has to offer, from the Port of Long Beach and Shoreline Village, to the Pike, the city skyline and more, Michaelian said.
The Grand Prix generates a significant economic impact both for the region and for Long Beach—according the to most recent data, about $64 million is generated for the region, while $33 million is produced for Long Beach. Of the $33 million, $700,000 in tax revenue goes into the city coffers, and the event creates the equivalent of about 350 full-time jobs, according to Michaelian.
While specific hotel occupancy information was unavailable, in the past, the event has filled all of the first-class rooms in Long Beach, creating a “spillover effect” that also filled hotel rooms in some surrounding cities, Michaelian said.
Of the thousands of attendees, about 85% are from Southern California, another 5% are from elsewhere in the western U.S., and the remaining 10% travel from throughout the country and the world.
“Quite frankly, a vast majority of the people here will be glad to tell you how many times they’ve come to this event,” said Michaelian, who estimates that about 70-to-75% of attendees have been to the Grand Prix in the past. “I think that’s a very positive indicator of what they experienced and what they anticipate the following year is going to provide in terms of entertainment.”
Apart from the headlining IndyCar race, the weekend includes a sports car championship, a Super Drift Challenge, Robby Gordon’s SPEED/UTV Stadium SUPER Trucks, the Historic Formula 1 Challenge and the Porsche Carrera Cup North America.
Attendees can also enjoy off-track activities such as a Lifestyle Expo in the Convention Center, a Kings of Chaos concert and numerous food trucks, which will increase in variety this year—including more healthy options—based on feedback from previous guests, Michaelian said.
“This is supposed to be a very family-friendly event,” Michaelian said. “It lends itself to having families come and bring their youngsters and get them acclimated to what racing is all about in the Downtown streets of Long Beach.”
This year’s race event also incorporates a theme: “Southern California’s 200-MPH Beach Party,” which will be reflected not only in advertising and social media, but also in the presentation of the track through its colors and other references to beach life, Michaelian said.
“What we’re trying to do is to build on this thematically, to build on this whole concept that this really is a three-day entertainment vehicle featuring the idea of a beach party, and we are working very hard to see what we can do about solidifying the relationship between the event and our customers,” Michaelian said.
This year, attendees will also be able to use an improved website and an app that will alert them of upcoming events throughout the weekend, such as an autograph session or concert. Additionally, for the first year, Acura Grand Prix merchandise will be available throughout the year, not only during the event weekend.
“This will be our 48th year of conducting this event, and the only way you have that kind of longevity is to make sure that you exceed people’s expectations year after year after year,” Michaelian said.
“We’re hoping that by the time we get done with the race on the evening of April the 16th, as people are leaving the facility, they give us a thumbs up and say, ‘You know what? Great show, loved it. We’ll be back next year,’” Michaelian added. “If we’ve been able to do that, in a safe and entertaining manner, then we’ll have achieved our goal.”
Tickets are available online and range from $38 for Friday general admission to $175 for three-day admission with reserved seating on Saturday and Sunday.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the headlining race.