Andretti Sports Marketing has "struck a deal with the city to manage the Baltimore Grand Prix for the next five years, the third group charged with organizing the race in the last six months," according to Jack Lambert of the BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL. The news comes three months after the city tapped Downforce Racing to "take over the cash-strapped downtown street race, but the group was never able to get off the ground and a deal with the group has been terminated." The new organizer, Race On LLC, is led by Columbia-based Grant Capital Management President & CEO J.P. Grant and BMW Construction Specialists VP Greg O’Neill. Andretti Sports Marketing "will help sell sponsorships, manage public relations, marketing, hospitality, ticket sales, track build, grandstand layout, and logistics for Race On." The deal "still needs approval by the city's Board of Estimates, which is set to vote on the contract May 16." Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office said that the city’s proposed new contract with Race On "guarantees payment for cost sharing City services." The agreement also "contains an escrow account on 10 percent of ticket sales to insure 'safeguards admissions and amusement tax revenue'" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/10). Baltimore City Council member William Cole IV, who participated in negotiations with the new team and IndyCar, said that he was "confident the race driver's company, Andretti Sports Marketing, could pull off the race in such a short time." Cole said, "There are probably very few groups that can step in at this point and have a race on Labor Day weekend." Speed's Robin Miller said that the new team "has just enough time to organize the race." He added that Andretti "would be able to tap into a deep network as he seeks sponsors" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 5/10).
Events and Attractions
Tennis players Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have "threatened not to return" to the Mutua Madrid Open if the tournament's blue clay courts are not "discarded," according to the AP. Nadal Thursday lost to Fernando Verdasco in the third round of the tournament, "his earliest exit in a clay-court tournament" since '04. Nadal "blamed his first loss on clay in almost a year on the blue clay, which players have said was slippery." He said, "Being able to move is very important for me and if I can't move well, I can't hit the ball well either. If things don't change, this will be one less tournament on the calendar for me." Nadal added, "This surface destabilizes the game. It is a completely different game and I don't want to take risks.'' Meanwhile, Djokovic Thursday defeated Stanislas Wawrinka, but said that he "would also boycott the tournament if it didn't go back to the traditional red-clay surface." Djokovic said, "They are claiming that the court is exactly the same as red clay, which is not true because there is a big difference. You are tripping, slipping all the time, sliding. The winner will be the one who doesn't get hurt by the end of the week" (AP, 5/10). SI.com's Jon Wertheim wrote, "While it's probably regrettable that the Madrid promoters chose a different type of clay than other events, including the forthcoming French Open, big deal." Courts "always play a little differently from event to event." Wertheim added, "While I respect players' willingness to use their acquired capital to voice their grievances, I sometimes wish they picked their battles more judiciously." When changing from red clay to blue clay "practically incited a riot, how is the sport going to do anything meaningful?" (SI.com, 5/9).
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase noted Madrid Open Owner Ion Tiriac "has announced his plan to take everyone's mind off the color of the clay next year." Tiriac said that he "plans to use phosphorescent tennis balls at next year's event." Tiriac said, "We think it fluorescent green or fluorescent orange, which grabs more light and works best in contrast with the blue clay." Chase wrote, "I don't think Tiriac's idea will get past the spitballing stages." The ATP has "caught enough flak for allowing the switch to blue courts." The league is "not going to go further toward the circus with orange balls" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/10).
Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas said that he is "hopeful next week’s 137th Preakness Stakes will draw 5,000 more people than last year, bringing attendance to levels before fans were banned from carrying in their own beer," according to Jack Lambert of the BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Chuckas said that ticket sales "are up over last year and he is 'cautiously optimistic' a crowd of 112,000 fans will flow into Pimlico Race Course for the May 19 race." Lambert noted about 107,000 fans "attended last year's race" and a 5% "increase to around 112,000 this year would get attendance figures back to peak levels" between '04-08. Attendance dipped in '09 "to nearly 78,000 after officials banned attendees from bringing their own beer on to the infield." Attendance figures have started to "creep back up, however, due to strong musical acts, discounted beer promotions like the all-you-can-drink Mug Club and launching Kegasus, a beer guzzling 'manimal.'" Meanwhile, Chuckas said that most of the corporate suites and hospitality tents "have already sold out." He added that Baltimore-based Under Armour has "increased the size of its hospitality tent and sponsorship presence at the event" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/9).