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Milwaukee Back on the Indy Car Circuit
Author: Mark W. Theisen
March 5th 2012 - I admit to being very cautious when I first heard all the rumors about Milwaukee getting another chance to prove itself when it comes to Indy Car Racing.  

First the Indy Racing League’s president Randy Bernard made several overtures to that possibility when the 2012 season schedule was announced with two races short of the “required” seventeen.  Then many of the drivers began to sound off about the importance of having Milwaukee on the schedule and the tradition that the event carries in open wheel racing but still there was nothing concrete to report on.

Then the Milwaukee Mile website prematurely posted ticket sales for a race on June 15th and 16th  but that information was quickly taken down because contracts had not been signed but then we knew who was behind the endeavor, it was Michael Andretti and his racing organization and now their was some semblance of hope.

That hope became reality on Thursday, March 1st, when a kick-off press conference was held to officially announce the Milwaukee Indy-Fest at Wisconsin State Fair Park, the Milwaukee Mile, on Friday June 15th and Saturday June 16th.

Despite the short time frame they were dealing with Andretti and his team have formulated a plan that seizes on Milwaukee’s pension for “festivals” and parties and tosses in a 225 mile Indy Racing League event as well as the Indy Light series race in what, they promise will be an exciting fun filled weekend, not only for the die-in-the-wool open wheel fans but those who embrace the festival atmosphere that runs the gamut in Milwaukee all summer long.

Andretti had been teamed with his partners in the race promotion business for several seasons before taking sole ownership of the race teams leaving the race promotion business to his former associates.  Now with that “no-compete” part of the sale contract now over Andretti and his current group are ready to tackle the promotion business again to go along with his racing teams.

Andretti along with a roster of heavyweights in Milwaukee politics by his side outlined what he feels will be an event with something for everyone including those curious to see what open wheel racing was all about but never seeing “value” in what they would get by coming to the race.

Heading the announcement was a roll-back in ticket prices to a level that Wisconsin fans can deal with including one and two day tickets that start at $17.50 to $29.00 for general admission to reserved seats that start in bleachers at $19.00 and go the $74.00 for the section 400 seats, the “best in the house” so to speak.

Included in the ticket price is admission to the Indy Car Fan Village, the Family Fun Zone, and an autograph session plus a “name” band concert to follow the race on Saturday afternoon.  This concept was designed to keep the fans busy all day long so as to perceive something for their “buck” besides the race.  The headline band for the concert has not been announced as yet but Andretti promises it will be a heavyweight attraction.

It is Andretti’s goal to sell-out the infield and said his group will create a “snake-pit” in the infield to go along with the family oriented entertainment for those that come to these events for the party atmosphere.

In addition pit passes will be available for purchase so fans can get a close up look at the stars and the cars if they opt to choose so.  The web-site, milwaukeeindyfest.com is up and running for additional information and to order tickets.

We all remember the past Indy Car races at the Mile including last summer when it was run on Father’s Day and after a morning rain storm that killed any hopes of walk-up ticket sales and doomed the event almost before the green flag waived. Those events were lacking major sponsorship or for that matter any sponsorship at all so all hopes of profit rested on ticket sales and that never happened.  Any of the past three Indy Car races were poorly promoted and poorly attended, it is Andretti’s hope to change all that.

“We have one of our race team sponsors, DHL, already on board as an event sponsor as well as the Marcus Hotel group”, said Andretti.  “It is our hope that several more will be added in the weeks to come, sponsors that will help turn this event into an annual one on the schedule.”

In addition the Indy Racing League is introducing their all new Dallara chassis this year and has competition in the engine manufacturer department for the first time in 10 years that will prove to be very exciting.  Dealing with death of Dan Wheldon and the move of Danica Patrick to NASCAR the series will have Formula One standout, Rubens Barrichello on board for the year in his first ever attempt in an Indy Car.  It will be exciting and should help boost fan interest wherever the series races.

Andretti’s deal in Milwaukee, according to the announcement, is multi-year, but the first year is the key.  He hopes to have 30,000 tickets sold and feels that is attainable given that the Brewers are not in town that weekend, and the opening of Summer Fest is weeks away.  With the race itself, starting at noon on Saturday and the concert to follow, the fans will be out of the area early and that should not infringe on Father’s Day activities the next day.  

Race fans from the area need to talk this event up.  We are running out of chances to keep The Milwaukee Mile alive and I really think this year is “do or die” in the eyes of Bernard.

Let’s not let this chance slip away.