LONG BEACH — The temporary bleachers and concrete barriers are in place as downtown Long Beach, once again, is transformed into a serpentine 1.67-mile race course for this weekend's Grand Prix activities.
"The city becomes a race circuit. It's the damnedest thing you've ever seen," is how Jeff Green, spokesman for the Long Beach Grand Prix Assn., describes the metamorphosis.
A series of charity events, promotions and special activities, such as today's C-300 Indy Car Garage Party at the Long Beach Arena, have helped hype the event that promoters hope will attract as many as 200,000 spectators throughout the weekend.
The excitement builds, Green said, as people "see the circuit being built and realize something is going on: It's Grand Prix time."
"People start driving Ocean Boulevard a little faster because it's part of the circuit," Green said.
The circuit runs from Shoreline Drive to Seaside Way, cuts the Hyatt Regency garage, continues on Seaside and wraps around the Convention Center and Sports Arena complex until it rejoins Shoreline Drive.
Motorists will find everything south of Ocean Boulevard--between the Broadway ramp off the southbound Long Beach (710) Freeway and the Alamitos Avenue-Ocean Boulevard intersection--closed until 4:30 p.m. Monday, according to Lt. Ken Schack, who heads the Long Beach Police Department special events section. Pine Avenue and the Promenade will be open each night between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Schack said the Police Department has been preparing for the event for three months. An additional 40 to 50 police officers will be on duty through the weekend, along with Grand Prix security, he said.
On Friday, an Indy car practice kicks off the day at 10 a.m., followed by other practices and qualifying runs. On Saturday, the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. and the Bendix Trans-Am Championship will run from 4 to 5:15 p.m., according to Dwight Tanaka, association vice president and director of operations.
On Sunday, the Bosch/Volkswagen Super Vee Cup will run from 10:40 to 11:45 a.m. and the grand finale--the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for CART/Indy cars--will roar through the streets from 2 to 4 p.m. Tickets are still available at all Ticketmaster outlets and at 130 N. Pine Ave. Prices range from a $15 general admission one-day ticket for Friday or Saturday to $25 and $35 for Sunday. Three-day tickets also are on sale, ranging in price from $30 to $75, Green said.
For those who would like a free, lower-powered event, the Long Beach City College campus today will host its annual Mini Grand Prix. The 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. race on campus will feature non-motorized "cars" built by students.