SBD/January 10, 2012/Events and Attractions

Baltimore Officials Search For New Team To Manage IndyCar Series Race

City officials yesterday declined to name groups seeking to run event
Baltimore officials are "conducting a swift and informal search for a new team to manage the city's Grand Prix race -- and are declining to explain how or by what criteria they are making decisions," according to Scharper & Broadwater of the Baltimore SUN. City officials "declined on Monday to name the groups that are seeking to run the event -- or even to say how many have signaled interest." Baltimore Deputy Mayor Kaliope Parthemos, who is "spearheading discussions for the city, has said there are only a few groups that IndyCar would consider approving to run the race." She said yesterday that the final contract "would go through a public vetting process when it came before Baltimore's spending board." North American Motorsport Events CEO Geoff Whaling, whose racing group "submitted a seven-page plan to take over the race," said that his "interactions with the city left him wondering if Baltimore officials had already made up their minds." Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration is "pushing hard to continue the race, which pumped $47 million into the economy, according to a study commissioned by the city." City officials said that they are "able to bypass a formal request for proposals and bid process in seeking a new group to run the race because the contract is for a 'professional service'" (Baltimore SUN, 1/10). In Baltimore, Jack Lambert noted North American Motorsport Events has a plan "to create a nonprofit to run the race." Whaling said yesterday that his group "has proposed creating a not-for-profit group made up of North American Motorsport Events officials and Grand Prix sponsors." The nonprofit "would create a board of trustees made up of local businesses and community members." The proposal "would call for a new five-year agreement with the city that would come with annual reviews." Whaling said that the new group "would not assume the debts of Baltimore Racing." Rawlings-Blake Policy & Communications Dir Ryan O'Doherty said that final approval "for an agreement would have to go through the city's Board of Estimates." O'Doherty "did not have a timetable for when that might occur." Whaling also said that he "was not given a timetable for when he might hear back from the city" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/9).

SETTING EXPECTATIONS: A BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL editorial states a new management team "would have to prove a second Grand Prix is worth it to the taxpayers." Hotel occupancy and "direct impact numbers fell far short of what was predicted last year," and downtown businesses "were mixed on whether it was good for their business." Some were "forced to close as the race preparations took over downtown's core." It would be "fascinating to watch how new organizers work to change the perception of the race enough to attract big sponsorship dollars." The first race never attracted a title sponsor, a "failure that led to its financial downfall" (BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/6 issue).
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