When it was announced that Ontario would be hosting the 2015 Pan-Am Games, immediate concerns came about as to whether the Honda Indy Toronto would happen this season. Those concerns were immediately addressed as the event is happening as scheduled, just a month prior than normally scheduled. The Verizon IndyCar Series, along with five other divisions, will be hitting the streets of Toronto this weekend.
“That’s the excitement of this weekend,” Honda Indy Toronto President Charlie Johnstone. “It’s not just about one series, it’s Super Trucks, Porche, the whole Road to Indy and it starts on Friday when Fan Friday.”
On Fan Friday, fans are welcome to come down for ‘free’ and have access to entire event, whether grandstands or the support series’ paddocks. In return, track officials will be collecting donations for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which the Honda Dealers Association will match in value.
“It’s really about the whole festival atmosphere,” Johnston continued. “It’s getting people down to the sight and hear and the sounds of the IndyCars and see the drivers and get up close – that’s what creates that energy and excitement. The more that we can continue to get people down on the sight, it just continues for the next race and broadcast. They feel it, smell it and come back next year.”
The event each year has been hosted at Exhbition Place, the same place that hosts the Canadian National Exhibition each year. The area is perfect with all forms of public transit, whether TTC or Go, having drop-offs located right outside the entrances.
It isn’t something that just comes together quickly, though. Johnstone stated on Thursday that it takes seven weeks to build everything for the event, from constructing the grandstands to the placing the walls, to make the event happen. While that hasn’t been a challenge – the usual time span that they have – the games are set to bring a new challenge for the event staff. While they normally would have two weeks to move out, they’re going to have everything cleared out of Exhibition Place this year in six days.
“We have three crews running 24/7,” Johnstone commented. “We have to get off the site for the Pan-Am Games. That’ll be a challenge for us, but we have a great team to do it and we’ll make way for the Pan-Am Games.”
Beyond the simple scheduling of the event, the games have had an impact in the organization of the paddock.
“We’re not without our challenges this year, working with the expansion of BMO Field, the hotel and then right in the middle of what was the IndyCar paddock, that’s where we got a beach volleyball court for the Pan-Am Games,” Johnstone explained. “This year, from an operation standpoint, is a little bit more challenging than it has been in the past. At the same time, we’ve known these things are happening, planning for them for a year. I always chuckle when people say, ‘What do you do for the rest of the year?’ We plan for these days and weeks leading into it. We have a great team in place, working hard, working with the folks at MLS, Pan-Am Games and Exhibition.”
The IndyCar paddock has been shifted around, surrounding where the court building is taking place, versus the normal arrangement of season’s past. Beyond that, though, fans who have been down to the event before will be pleased to know that the locations of things like victory lane and the interactive exhibits haven’t changed.