Grand Prix organizers ask city to leave up some race infrastructure until after April 2022 race

With race weekend behind it Long Beach officials could allow Grand Prix organizers to keep up nearly half of the concrete blocks that help line the track with the 2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach just seven months away.

The City Council will vote at its Oct. 5 meeting to approve a request from the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach to leave up to 1,082 of the roughly 2,400 concrete blocks used to hold fencing and outline the race track in place until May.

Affected areas would include Seaside Way and the parking lot located next to the Long Beach Arena known as the Elephant Lot as well as the stretch of Shoreline Drive east of Pine Avenue.

A memo to the council said race organizers are citing financial hardship brought on by the cancellation of the 2020 race due to the pandemic. Leaving the blocks in place is estimated to save about three days of setup time next spring and save the association about $89,000.

Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the association, said that the losses “were not insignificant” but he’s hopeful that the 2022 race could bring a fuller return to normal if the pandemic is over. Michaelian said this weekend’s race saw a drop off of about 7,000 attendees but the race still saw about 180,000 people come through the gates over the three days of the event.

Turning around and hosting another race in seven months is not unheard of. Michaelian pointed out that inaugural Long Beach race was held on Sept. 28 1975 before the race turned to an annual April race format in 1976. It shouldn’t be an issue to do it again, he said.

“The Grand Prix team is an extraordinarily talented one and they’re more than capable of turning this around and doing the first class type of event we do here in six months,” Michaelian said. “That’s an easy challenge for them.”

It typically takes about 53 days to set up the track and organizers are allowed about three weeks to tear it down. The original request from the association asked the city to allow it to leave up some other elements of the race including some of the grandstands and some of the bridges but the City Council vote will be focused on the concrete blocks.

If the council approves the request the association would be responsible for upkeep of the concrete blocks including removing any graffiti that might pop up between now and race day 2022. It would also need to add the city on as an insured party for leaving the blocks on city streets.

The association has also pledged to use some of the $89,000 to treat asphalt portions of the race track for tire marks. Michaelian said he’s yet to give a thorough inspection of the track so he doesn’t know how much work needs to be done and what the cost will be.

“The intent there is to try to eliminate as much as the tire marks that is a byproduct of the Grand Prix of the city streets that we we use for the race,” Michaelian said.

The city and the association are currently negotiating a long-term extension of their agreement to host the race in Long Beach, which is set to expire in June 2023. That contract came with a five-year option to extend the agreement.

Crews have begun tearing down the grandstands and other race infrastructure and have until Oct. 17 to complete the process. Crews began setting up the track for the Sept. 26 race on Aug. 2.

Crews begin work on Grand Prix track as race makes its way back from two-year hiatus


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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.