Can Baltimore afford an Indy League race?

Daily Record Business Writer
August 17, 2009 2:34 PM

Baltimore is the Indy Racing League’s pick for its new race location in 2011 — but the question remains Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. speaks at Monday's news conference.whether the city will be able to afford the expense to make the race along downtown streets a reality.

The event’s local organizers and city officials exercised cautious optimism at a Monday news conference officially introducing the Baltimore Racing Development team, which includes two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. The city council last week unanimously passed a resolution allowing the group to negotiate for and promote the event here.

“It’s not a done deal, we still want to deliver this to the city,” said BRD Chief Operating Officer Jay Davidson after the news conference at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. “We have to show them you can do the safety management and the traffic management in a feasible way. ... We hope they look at the cost and realize the benefits economically.”

A statement issued by Mayor Sheila Dixon was notably guarded.

“I am very interested in the prospect of Baltimore hosting an Indy Racing League event downtown,” the statement said. “As planning and negotiations continue with Baltimore Racing Development, the city must carefully consider the costs of this event ... against the compelling economic benefits.”

The race, run by the same type of cars as in the Indianapolis 500, would take place in a route along city streets between Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor. The promoters are negotiating for Labor Day weekend as the race date.

BRD estimates the race could generate roughly 400 full-time temporary jobs and between $60 million and $100 million in spending over three days by more than 150,000 attendees, based on similar street races run in cities including Long Beach, Calif., and Cleveland.

By comparison, the Preakness Stakes generated an estimated $60 million in spending for one day this year, and the Dew Tour in 2008 generated about $10 million over four days.

Two other studies on noise impact and traffic management will be finished in the early fall, according to Davidson. The studies are looking at what the city would need to do for the residents in the race track zone to mitigate sound, and BRD is working with the city to address road closures, public transportation rerouting and cost estimates.

At that point, Baltimore will have a better idea of what it will need to pony up if it wants to bring the race here.

Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was in attendance Monday and appeared optimistic about the challenges. She noted that some of the streets that would need to be repaved for the event are already scheduled to have that work in the coming years, meaning that would not be considered an additional expense for the race.

“Baltimore has all the components to make this a fantastic event,” she said. “I know we have obstacles to overcome, but I know they are not insurmountable.”

Davidson said that according to BRD’s research, other cities that have hosted street races and paid for the temporary track barriers, repaving, public transit rerouting, and more, said they were “very happy with their returns based on the investment they made.”

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