Auto Sports

Indy racing proponent still expects green light in Baltimore

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

The head of a group trying to bring a street race to downtown Baltimore believes the city is well on its way to being placed on the IndyCar Racing League circuit next summer.

“I’m pretty certain it’s going to happen,” said Jay Davidson, chief operating officer of Baltimore Racing Development LLC. “I’d say we’re at 90 percent.”

Despite turmoil in city leadership — Mayor Sheila Dixon steps down next month, and the incoming administration faces a budget deficit of approximately $127 million — plans to bring the first grand prix-style race to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor are still revving up.

Cities can lose during race cars’ fast visits

August 31, 2009 6:02 PM

A cautionary tale lies just 36 miles down the freeway from downtown Baltimore’s proposed Indy Car race along city streets. After fronting the $5.1 million to build a racetrack in the parking lot of RFK Baltimore Racing Development would reimburse Baltimore up to $500,000 for the city’s expenses in holding the proposed race on its streets, says COO Jay Davidson.Stadium, the Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C., came in 2002 — and never returned.

But race promoters, including the ones trying to bring an Indy Car race to Baltimore in 2011, say Washington was an unusual case and most cities that host races on their streets have limited financial exposure today.

In Washington, setting up the American Le Mans Series race ran nearly $2 million over budget and the event drew complaints from the neighborhoods surrounding the track. Although the race promoter was to pay back half the city’s costs over 10 years, the political controversy made it a one-and-done event.

“It ended up costing a fair amount of money and the return was not what we hoped it would be,” said William Hall, an attorney who was a D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission board member at the time. That, “combined with the noise issue” not being resolved with nearby residents, quashed the event, he said.

But RFK’s track was essentially built from scratch and that drove up the cost. That would not be the case in Baltimore, according to the city Department of Transportation.

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.