As the Petit Le Mans wraps up today and fans prepare for a rainy finish to the four-day event, officials chimed in on the economic impact of Hall County’s single largest sporting event of the year.
Business is always booming as fans converge on Road Atlanta for the annual race in Braselton, said Tony Funari, District 3 Councilman for the town.
“Restaurants are always busting at the seams during the race,” Funari said. “Hotels are full. Our whole town looks forward to this every year. We’re a little disappointed in the weather, but it’s still been a great impact here, like it is every year.”
Just how big of an impact does it have? Tim Evans, vice president of economic development with the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce, said the most recent economic impact study — although a little dated — was telling.
In 2005, the Petit Le Mans had an economic impact of $53.5 million in the area.
“And, it was a much smaller event in 2005,” Evans said. “We always get a lot of real positive exposure outside the community but the direct benefit shows up in terms of the hotels and restaurants.”
He said that, by the end of the Petit Le Mans — which includes a 10-hour endurance race today — more than 130,000 fans were expected to have attended.
With 320,000 visitors every year, Road Atlanta is second only to Lake Lanier in its ability to draw visitors to Hall County.
The race was founded by Road Atlanta owner Don Panoz and first run on Oct. 10, 1998, as part of the International Motorsports Association season. The 1999 edition was one of the original events of the American Le Mans Series.
“The recognition an event like this brings to the area is significant,” Evans said. “When you say ‘Road Atlanta,’ racing fans from around the world recognize the name. It’s the biggest endurance road race of its kind in North America.”
Added Evans: “It’s the same type of benefit as having the Olympic games or the Super Bowl, but it’s a different audience.”
Petit Le Mans
When: 11:10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Road Atlanta, Braselton
Tickets: Prices are $50 and up. Children under 12 with an adult are free. To purchase tickets, call 770-967-6143 or go online to www.roadatlanta.com/petit-le-mans-tickets