SBD/August 26, 2013/Events and Attractions

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  • Baltimore GP Dealing With Challenges As Organizers Try To Ensure Event's Future

    Finding a weekend for the Baltimore GP is one of the event's challenges

    The Izod IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Baltimore currently has a "host of challenges," making it "increasingly possible this may be open-wheel racing's last year in the Inner Harbor," according to Chris Korman of the Baltimore SUN. Event and city officials last week acknowledged that they are "struggling to find" weekends in August '14 and '15 to accommodate the racing festival. Finding another date that "doesn't conflict with events" at M&T Bank Stadium, Camden Yards and the city's convention center has "proved difficult." Race On LLC partner J.P. Grant, whose company organizes the race, said that he "remains committed to establishing the event as a yearly tradition if it proves economically viable for organizers and the city." The race "still lacks a title sponsor." Grant said that it "needs more financial support from local businesses and both the city and state government." He is "treating last year's event -- which lost several million dollars -- as a 'baseline.'" He "expects to see higher revenue this year, based on ticket sales, but still expects to lose money." Baltimore Racing Development, the original organizer, said that the event "would have an economic impact" of $70M a year. However, studies paid for by the city and race organizers show that the "reality has been more" in the $45M range. Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said that IndyCar "remains committed to hosting a race in Baltimore, as long as Race On can secure a date." He is "pushing to make the circuit more appealing to fans by ending the season with a three-race series showcasing the circuit's three kinds of racing -- on an oval like the Indianapolis 500, on a permanent road course and on a temporary track like the one in the Inner Harbor -- while drivers chase points for the championship." That would "give the Grand Prix of Baltimore an opportunity to become a signature event" (Baltimore SUN, 8/25).

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  • WTA New Haven Open Attendance Drops About 10%, While Sponsor Talks Continue

    New Haven Open fans sat only in the lower ring of the Connecticut Tennis Center

    WTA New Haven Open Tournament Dir Anne Worcester was "working hard to put a positive spin on this year's tournament" despite the fact that, "on paper, attendance was down close to 10 percent," according to Chris Elsberry of the CONNECTICUT POST. Worcester said, "I thought we had a lot more fan-friendly entertainment and I think that bringing the people down to the lower bowl all helped with the fan experience. I think this was my least stressful tournament in my 16 years here." Attendance was "down 7,208 from last year," as official figures "had 45,796 attending the 2013 tournament." Worcester: "We need to do an even better job of selling tickets next year." Worcester said that paid attendance for '13 "was up over last year, as were ticket revenues." Although Worcester "didn't have exact figures, she said that individual sales were up 'around 5 percent' and that multi-session packages and group sales were up 'around 18 percent.'" Worcester added that talks have "started with the four cornerstone sponsors -- American Express, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Yale University and Aetna -- and presenting sponsor First Niagara." She said that "there are 'positive signs' that all want to continue their relationship with the tournament." The sponsors' original three-year agreements expire after the '13 tournament (CONNECTICUT POST, 8/25). In Connecticut, Roger Cleaveland reported attendance at the event "dropped for the eighth straight year to its second-lowest total ever." At its "height as a single, combined men's and women's tournament, it drew 100,375 fans" in '05. Week-long tournament box sales "dropped about" 10% (Waterbury REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN, 8/25).

    SCALING BACK: In Hartford, Lori Riley noted the tournament this year "consolidated the fans into the lower box seat ring, which seats 5,500, shutting off the upper ring of the Connecticut Tennis Center." The entire stadium "seats 13,000." Worcester said that as a result of the consolidation, the tournament "gave away fewer complimentary tickets to charity groups and the like and also cut back on the amount of tickets they gave sponsors" (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/25). In New Haven, Chris Hunn noted the tournament is "giving less tickets away" and "thus selling more." Worcester "seems confident that professional tennis will be back in New Haven." Worcester: "I can’t sit here and say I’ve got funding for the next three years. ... But I couldn’t be more optimistic about those five cornerstones renewing." She "hopes for a new contract to be announced in October." Worcester also "did not rule out the possibility of a title sponsor and [said] that there are some potential new cornerstones." The tournament also has "received funding from the state, which has been critical." Worcester: "It’s the first time in my 16 years the state has recognized the value of this tournament. ... They’re taking baby steps. A major investment in physical improvement and permanent infrastructure, and making the building a multi-purpose facility is still a few years off" (NEW HAVEN REGISTER, 8/25).

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  • Ecclestone Says N.J. F1 Race Will Not Happen, Organizers "Haven't Got Any Money"

    Grand Prix of America organizers expect the race to go ahead

    F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said that the inaugural Grand Prix of America in New Jersey "will not take place as planned next year, saying the organizers have not raised enough money to fund it," according to Christian Sylt of CNN.com. The final '14 calendar "will be approved by motorsport's governing body, the FIA, in December but new races need to have financing in place by now to ensure their plans are on track." Event organizers "appointed investment bank UBS in June" to raise $100M, which is required for the race to go ahead. But Ecclestone said that they have "run out of time." Ecclestone: "It's not on the cards for next year." He added the problem is race organizers "haven't got any money." However, Grand Prix of America spokesperson Alex Howe said that organizers "expected the race would go ahead." He said, "We don't comment on financial matters but we are on track for 2014 and will have a statement following the announcement of the official 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship schedule" (CNN.com, 8/23).

    SOUTH OF THE BORDER: AUTOSPORT.com's Jonathan Noble reported Mexico is "poised to make a surprise return" to the F1 calendar in '14. Sources said that it is to be "awarded a provisional slot in next year's schedule." Although teams "have not yet been given a draft calendar," Ecclestone is "intending to pencil in a race in Mexico City." With recent plans for a race in Cancun "having been dropped," former Circuit of the Americas Managing Partner Tavo Hellmund "has been working hard on the Mexico City plan" (AUTOSPORT.com, 8/25).

    CIRCUIT BREAKER
    : In London, Sylt & Reid reported N.Y.-based asset management firm and F1 stakeholder Waddell & Reed has "invested in Circuit of the Americas." The move gives F1 "closer links" to the U.S., where it is "trying to break into the market." Gaining a foothold there "is understood to be an important part of revving up the stalled plans to float F1 on the Singapore stock exchange." Documents show that Waddell & Reed provided $11.8M of the debt on the facility that "is due for repayment" between '17 and '18. The firm last year paid $1.6B for a 20.9% stake "in F1's parent company Delta Topco." The transaction with COTA brings Waddell & Reed's F1-related investments to 7.6% of its net assets. It is a "higher amount than that for any of its other investments" except for gold bullion, which accounts for 9% (London TELEGRAPH, 8/25).

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  • USA Pro Challenge Organizers Remain Committed To Colorado For The Long Term

    A main sponsor for the USA Pro Challenge may be named within 15 months

    Despite "whispers in the amply rumor-milled cycling world," organizers of the 3-year-old USA Pro Challenge are "committed to Colorado for the long term," according to Jason Blevins of the DENVER POST. Healthy crowds -- organizers said that there "were more spectators than the previous two years of the race -- and climbing television ratings indicate the race is finding its footing, despite losing money." Still, the privately funded event is "laboring without a title sponsor and loses" $2-3M per year. Race CEO & Chair Shawn Hunter said, "It would certainly be great to have a title sponsor that would accelerate our break-even in profitability, and our investors deserve that, because they've invested tens of millions of dollars to bring stage racing back to Colorado. But we will get there without a title." Hunter said that he is "in negotiations with international companies that have an interest in cycling and other endurance sports." He expects that he "could announce the race's main sponsor in the next 12 months to 15 months" (DENVER POST, 8/26). In Denver, John Henderson notes besides the "local celebration, the race did little nationally." TV ratings "were awful," and fans downtown "overwhelmingly wanted a tightly packed peloton rather than riders flying one by one" (DENVER POST, 8/26). In Colorado Springs, Nathan Van Dyne notes while "crowd estimates and economic impact numbers vary widely, the popularity of the event is undeniable." The atmosphere "all week near the tops of climbs was akin to Friday nights in LoDo" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 8/26). Organizing committee co-Chair Eric Thompson said that the "'big topic of conversation' among race organizers and law enforcement officials was general shock over the thousands of fans who staked out spots not just in cities but at locations all along the route" (COLORADOAN, 8/25).

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