From redefining trackside luxury to expanding options for racing fans on a budget, Miami Grand Prix managing partner Tom Garfinkel explores the wins and opportunities two years in.
Much was made of the lavish, extravagant experiences on offer at the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix over the weekend of May 7, and understandably so. However, Boardroom was determined to learn more about how fans without the largesse of a Tom Cruise or Tommy Hilfiger could still fight the FOMO and have an unforgettable experience.
We quickly learned from the event’s managing partner Tom Garfinkel that there are indeed affordable options available to the typical enthusiast amid all the south Florida glitz.
A Campus Pass, Garfinkel told Boardroom, cost roughly $100 for a Friday visit to all 10 teams’ practice sessions, under $200 for Saturday’s qualifying session that saw Red Bull Racing‘s Sergio Perez win pole position, and about $400 for Sunday’s race to see defending champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull take the checkered flag after starting all the way back in ninth.
Comparing that to the average price for an NFL ticket — those hover around $150 — might not impress. Consider, however, that there are 272 regular season NFL games and just 23 Grand Prix events in 2023.
At traditional races throughout the campaign, fans can purchase a grounds pass that allows them to watch from designated grass “grounds,” Garfinkel explained from his Miami Gardens office. The Campus Pass in Miami, meanwhile, offered multiple views of the track, numerous places to purchase high-end food and drink, and the option to take a seat at the 300 level of neighboring Hard Rock Stadium, home to the NFL’s Dolphins and college football’s Miami Hurricanes, overlooking the teams’ exclusive hospitality area on the field.
“We’re trying to make it accessible to everybody and also make it a great experience,” Garfinkel said, prior to a weekend that ultimately saw overall attendance increase from 240,000 in year one to 270,000 in year two. “I’d go to a different place every day.”
Those trackside locations Garfinkel shouted out include:
- The top level of Hard Rock Stadium, where fans cheered and blew airhorns as drivers and team bosses walked to and from the field.
- The “Yacht Club,” where fans could order a wide range of beverages including rosé, beer, and tequila, and enjoy unobstructed views of Turn 6. Nearby, a Glenfiddich bar offered rooftop views of the track with sips of Speyside scotch.
- Paseo Park near Turn 9 in “The Fountains” section of the Grand Prix campus offered vistas from the family grandstand. The Fountains also offered dining options like Bodega, Fuku, and Jimmy Dean’s BBQ. The Fountain Plaza featured a giant screen to watch the racing action — an area that Garfinkel said could be permanently utilized for football game watch parties in the future.
- The Heineken Garden in the Paddock District by Turn 1 provided access to an outdoor cigar lounge. “People can hang out and have a cigar, some rum, and sit there and watch the race cars go by,” Garfinkel said. “I’d probably just try to get around and experience as much of it as it could.”
While not every one of these experiences would be on the table for the budget-conscious among us (Yacht Club access starts at upwards of $10,000), the number of distinct options for spectators is meant to cater to a broad range of tastes. Better yet, the offerings are slated to expand further in the years to come.
Sunday’s second edition of the Miami Grand Prix also came with a repaved track that ran a smooth, crash-free race. Off-track, it featured a permanent paddock club that made it far easier for teams to reach the on-field hospitality area, and the addition of numerous points of sale and bathrooms. Garfinkel noted that doubling the width of pedestrian bridges improved access and reduced bottlenecks as well.
The executive and a team of more than 400, including 50 full-time Grand Prix staffers, had just 11 months to build south Florida’s first-ever F1 event from scratch last year. This time, they had more time to fine-tune the event while the grounds hosted a season of Dolphins and Hurricanes football games, a College Football Playoff semifinal, the Miami edition of the Rolling Loud Festival, the Miami Open tennis tournament, and numerous concerts and marquee events.
Garfinkel said that in the future, it’s possible that more spectator tickets will be sold for Hard Rock Stadium, opening up the possibility to pack in as many as 65,000 more fans — its seating capacity for football — to spread the Grand Prix love even further.
“There’s opportunities in the future to do things like that as the demand grows and people fall in love with the sport that much more,” he said.
The stadium synergy is intentional on multiple levels. Tom Garfinkel also serves as CEO of the Miami Dolphins, so he and his colleagues made sure to integrate several of the team’s players into the race weekend festivities. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa did a jersey swap with Verstappen, completed a pit stop practice, and put several drivers through an NFL training camp-style agility course and a throwing exercise on the field:
Elsewhere, Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill donned an Alpine firesuit and hung out with driver Pierre Gasly. Meanwhile, quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys were among the stars in the paddock garage area Sunday taking in the race in true VIP style.
Miami is an authentically dynamic hub for culture, sports, arts, fashion, and music, and that was reflected on and off the track in the events that surrounded the race and its status as a glamorous global event that’s quickly become one of the most attractive and must-see stops on the world tour that is the F1 schedule. Garfinkel wants the experience to be uniquely Miami, incorporating the ethos of the city into the essence of race weekend.
“We’re not trying to be Silverstone, Las Vegas, or Austin or anywhere else. We’re trying to be Miami and do this as well as we can,” he said. “In the Design District, there was nowhere to park because there’s so many different events around this F1 race. That’s great for the city, great for the community, and we want that vibe to just continue to grow.”
Those Miami vibes could one day include a nighttime race, which Garfinkel said has been discussed. There are many factors to consider in that regard, including building light towers around the circuit, incorporating the opinions of the surrounding Miami Gardens community, and how to make a night race perfect for TV.
The overall weekend goal for Tom Garfinkel?
“On Sunday night, for people to leave here and say, ‘that’s the best event I’ve ever gone to and I can’t wait to go next year and for many years to come,’” he said.
Garfinkel wanted an exciting race on Sunday with a lot of overtaking, and he and the fans got that — along with much cooler temperatures and a calming breeze that helped make a more accessible and affordable experience even better for the common fan and VIP alike.
Laying out 10 predictions for the new year, including massive NBA media rights, MLB expansion, in-season tournaments, soccer, F1, and the Olympics….
The Hollywood superstar has built an impressive portfolio of business with a range reflective of his on-screen performances. Boardroom caught up with him in his new home of Las Vegas to discuss his entrepreneurship,…