Big crowds expected at Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - While the roar of racing engines will be unmistakable at this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, what may be revving at an even higher speed according to Gene Hallman, is the impact of sports on the Birmingham metro’s economy. “The economic impact calculated by the (Greater Birmingham) Convention and Visitors Bureau is in excess of $20 million” says Hallman, CEO of Zoom Motorsports which runs the event at Barber Motorsports Park. “We sold tickets in 35 states, eight countries, and more than half the tickets have been sold to fans outside of the state of Alabama. And many of those in-state fans according to Hallman are coming from far enough outside the metro that they, like their out-of-state counterparts will be spending money at hotels as well as restaurants in the Birmingham area. Hallman says the main race Sunday is already sold out with the facility ready to host upwards of 30,000 race fans. And while there are still tickets available for Friday’s events, Hallman says Saturday is close to selling out as well.
Those with tickets will get to see Indy 500 Champion Helio Castroneves as well as former NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson slice through the Barber track’s 17 turns in just under four miles. Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Tebow will serve as Grand Marshall.
The Indy Race at Barber had less competition for the sports fan’s dollar when it began 12 years ago. But Hallman seems unconcerned about the risk of Birmingham’s new kaleidoscope of sports options cannibalizing itself. “We’ve got a renovated BJCC arena”, Hallman points out. “We’ve got a brand new Protective Stadium. We’ve got a great historic stadium at Legion Field. We’ve got wonderful golf facilities that can host major golf events. You’ve got the barber Motorsports park. You’ve got so many things like Cross Plex that we’ve never had before. That allows us to draw in sports travel, which is one of the biggest boosts to our economy, right now, from a tourism standpoint.”
Practice starts at 2:45 on Friday at Barber Motorsports Park with more practice and qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday.
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