With Mayor Chuck Reed an opponent of the $4 million, two-year subsidy that kept the Champ Car race in downtown San Jose on hand to endorse this year's event, race organizers outlined a voucher system that will enable anyone to roam the track grounds on July 27 without buying a $25 general-admission ticket.
"There may be some revenue lost because some people who might have bought a ticket are going to come for free," grand prix president Dale Jantzen said Monday. "But I think long term it's a good thing to show people what's going on. Perhaps they'll want to come back on Sunday for the main event."
Friday is the first day of practice runs and time trials on the 1.443-mile track and crowds are generally thinnest at that point. Jantzen estimated that the number of Friday general-admission tickets sold in the past were in the "single-digit thousands."
A general-admission ticket gives fans access to viewing points along the course and various exhibits. Grandstand seating areas, however, will be limited to those who buy the three-day passes that cost $74 to $129.
Attendance was a major point of contention last year. Race officials initially claimed 155,934 people showed up for the three days, then revised that figure to less than 120,000.
Reed labeled his opposition to the January 2006 subsidy "an old fight" and backed the free-ticket promotion as a way of opening the grand prix to more San Jose residents.
"I've always thought the grand prix was a great event. My opposition was about the amount of city money needed to get it started," said Reed, who also had a problem with the process that let the public know about the subsidy only one day before the council voted on it.
The subsidy totaled $2.9 million for the 2006 race and $1.1 million for this year's event, according to Paul Krutko, the city's director of economic development.
Under terms of a contract through 2016, the city's contribution then drops to about $640,000 in services only, primarily for police, fire protection and traffic control. Because of tax revenue generated by the race, Reed said, it then becomes a break-even event.
"I would have supported it in the beginning on a break-even basis," Reed said.
Crowd movement was a major problem the first year of the race, but Jantzen said that the re-routing plan put in place last year worked so well that no further changes are planned.
Race fans seeking free admission to Friday's activities first need to pick up vouchers from any one of eight sponsors, Jantzen said. Those vouchers would then be turned in for free tickets at any race gate.
Vouchers will be available through:
The San Jose Mercury News, KNTV.com, various Budweiser displays in the South Bay, eight 24-Hour Fitness gyms, the Smoke Tiki Lounge in San Jose, GoKart Racer in Burlingame, Hertz car rental offices and the concierge desk at Westfield Valley Fair mall.