About the time you read this, the colorful, screaming race cars of INDYCAR’s Grand Prix will be roaring around the downtown in the redux of the national event that was held for the first time here last year.
Readers of this space might recall I was a big supporter last year of the Grand Prix coming here and felt it was more than worth the road repairs, traffic problems, and other disruptions it caused in the preparations leading up to the first race. So, given the financial problems with the first group of race organizers that surfaced after the exhaust fumes cleared, some might accuse me of irrational exuberance. After all, some vendors didn’t get paid, and the taxpayers didn’t get compensated according to the agreement for the infrastructure investments the city made for the race. Sorry, but my enthusiasm hasn’t waned.
Yes, there were problems in the first iteration, but the only thing the nation and the world saw were the positives—a world-class race in a place that racing fans might not have previously thought of as a world-class city. And, for many in Charm City, the estimated $47-million economic benefit to restaurants near the race course and hotels from the crowd of 160,000 was undeniable.
And though a second organizing group subsequently dropped its bid to run the 2012 race, I’m hoping the third time’s the charm in the form of Race On LLC, a group run by people the mayor trusts and who have the wherewithal to keep their promises. The Race On LLC partners include Baltimore businessman J.P. Grant III, president of Columbia’s Grant Capital Management, and Gregory O’Neill, a Baltimore-based demolition contractor, who are partnering with racing legend Michael Andretti of Indianapolis-based Andretti Sports Marketing.
The extremely successful Star-Spangled Sailabration proved the value of these sorts of events in terms of tourism and economic benefit, and tourism officials are wisely trying to woo back out-of-towners for the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 race.
Yes, we’re all keeping our fingers crossed, but I’m betting that round two will be a real success, not just for race fans and restaurant owners, but for taxpayers, too.