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A ticket in every price range for Grand Prix

In hopes of attracting the largest audience possible to this weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore, race organizers have cast a wide net, looking to capture everyone from motorsports aficionados to racing rookies.

Three-day tickets for reserved seats at the Grand Prix of Baltimore run $145 for the lower grandstand and $185 for the upper grandstand.

Whether you’re looking to spend $9 or $900 — or even more — they’ve got a ticket with your name on it.

After the inaugural race last year left many residents and business owners with a sour taste in their mouths, organizers this year said they wanted to be mindful of the entire community. That’s why they made sure to accommodate every budget when pricing tickets, said John Lopes, president of Andretti Sports Marketing, the group in charge of promoting the race.

“An event like this is exclusive — some of our offerings are quite expensive and clearly targeted at a corporate buyer,” Lopes said. “But we didn’t want it to be priced out for your everyday fan. That’s why there’s a broad range of price points that each come with different add-on levels of amenities.

“Putting on a street race is like any big festival event —you’ve got several pillars of revenue,” Lopes said, though he declined to offer concrete figures for ticket sales. “We’ve got general admission, upper-end hospitality, mid-tier hospitality and other special offerings. What we have to do is win in all of those areas. We can’t really underperform, as a promoter, in any one of those areas and be satisfied.”

One-day general admission tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are on sale for $15, $50 and $55, respectively, while weekend passes are $85. Tickets for attendees 12 and under cost about two-thirds the price of an adult’s.

Prices for reserving grandstand seating run higher — $145 for three-day lower grandstand and $185 for three-day upper grandstand.

Single-day seats are about $100. Thousands of Internet-savvy fans, however, paid even less. LivingSocial, an online deal site, offered a heavy discount: $9, $30 and $33 for one-day passes for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

During the deal’s week-long availability, which ended Sunday night at midnight, the site sold 4,486 tickets, according to its count.

Promoters ran the deal because it was the most efficient way to reach millions more people they could otherwise only reach with millions more in advertising dollars, Lopes said.

Data from LivingSocial also revealed demographic information about the users who purchased tickets that Lopes said is invaluable to his marketing team. For example, “at one point a majority” of the LivingSocial tickets were purchased by women, Lopes said, and a large portion by out-of-state users, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington residents.

LivingSocial also offered discounts on Paddock Passes, which, when tacked onto a regular ticket, allow fans access to the lower level of the Baltimore Convention Center, where Izod IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda and USF 2000 cars will be stationed.

Alan Cason, a partner with McGuire Woods LLP who calls himself a bit of a “motorhead,” said he thinks the LivingSocial deal was “a great idea,” because it will help attract a wider audience, especially because the Race On LLC team got a late start — the group assumed responsibility for the event in May.

“Road racing needs exposure in this area,” Cason said. “It’s a new sport. I think if you can get it to people, they’ll enjoy it and come back. It’s an unusual thing where if you haven’t experienced it, you won’t have a feel for it. It’s good they’re giving other people an opportunity who might have been frightened away by the higher ticket prices earlier.”

But for a race like the Grand Prix, organizers said they had to pull out all the stops. So in addition to general admission, fans can purchase tickets to The Andretti Club, a VIP package including reserved grandstand seats near the finish line on Pratt Street, Q&A and autograph sessions with drivers, food and beverages, Paddock Passes and exclusive access inside the convention center.

The Andretti Club comes with a hefty price tag — $895 for one ticket.

Lopes said organizers wanted to limit the number of people inside The Andretti Club this year, though they’ll likely expand it in the future. Sales are not yet completed, but he estimated there will probably be “600 to 800 people in there.”

And the options don’t end there. For companies really looking to spend some cash, organizers built private hospitality tents along the course, usually sold as part of a company’s six-figure sponsorship package.

The suites come in a variety of set-ups, from relatively modest single-deckers to double-deckers with enclosed, built-in grandstand seating and personalized catering menus They cost about $55,000 to 60,000, Lopes estimates.

And they’re all sold out.

Such extravagant offerings were partly necessitated by a high level of interest from national and international sponsors and organizers’ desire to exceed their expectations, Lopes said, citing big-name companies like Chrysler’s SRT and Verizon, which announced its sponsorship Monday.

“Part of our strategy was to build the event based on that level of sponsorship — the kind of companies that sponsor big events, like the Super Bowl and the Masters [golf tournament], and that kind of thing,” he said.

Cason said while he understands the need for high-end options, he hopes organizers don’t neglect to establish a fan base while they’re busy promoting expensive VIP experiences.

“It’s a new event, so the focus ought to be on moderately priced tickets that put butts in the seat,” Cason said. “I think the higher priced, high-roller tickets sort of come with it, but you have to have a basic fan base first before you really focus on that. And I realize those bring in more revenue, but without the basic fan at the race, there won’t be a race.”