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Concession sales reflect lower turnout for race

The people who run the CART Champ Car World Series event at Portland International Raceway have never announced the official paid attendance for the three days of racing each June.

Their unofficial crowd count kept going up through the 1990s, though, and only recently showed signs of leveling off or declining slightly.

But hard numbers for concessions indicate that interest is down for the Portland CART race. Concession sales have dropped a striking 48 percent since 2000 Ñ the year before the CART series started to unravel as a result of management turmoil and discontent among manufacturers and team owners.

In 2000, the city-owned PIR's take of concession sales was $97,857, according to track manager Mark Wigginton. In 2001, it was $76,975 Ñ a 21-percent drop from the previous year. In 2002, it was $67,697 Ñ a 13 percent drop.

This year, PIR's take was approximately $51,000 Ñ another 25 percent drop, Wigginton says.

Under the concession contract with Cascade Concessions, the track took 30 percent to 32 percent of gross profits for food, beer and beverages, he says.

'There are always circumstances, the three main ones being the size of the crowd, the weather and the starting time of the race,' Wigginton says.

Starting time for the race has been 12:30 p.m. for the last three years. It previously had been 2 p.m., which provided 1 1/2 additional hours for sales. This year, cloudy weather persisted, perhaps slowing beer sales, Wigginton says.

'Coffee guys were doing well,' he says. Overall, however, 'anybody that was here recognized that the crowd was down.'

The race also attracted about 400 motor homes at its peak, but this year it had about half that many.