Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blakesays the new organizers she has selected for September's
The new deal the mayor hammered out in secret with IndyCar officials is riskier than the last one, and its scheduled approval at the Board of Estimates next week comes awfully close to what sports marketing experts say is the drop-dead date for being able to pull off an event on
But what we can be sure of is this: Every time the city gets a new group to run the race, the deal gets worse for Baltimore.
Last year, the city was supposed to be reimbursed for all of its expenses in putting on the race, except for its initial investment in bringing the streets around the
This year, when Ms. Rawlings-Blake hand-picked a new group to take over the race, Downforce Racing, she pitched the deal as a lessons-learned contract. It required the city to be paid first and for taxes to be put in escrow. But this time, there would be no $250,000 annual fee and no guarantee that race organizers would cover the city's costs. A guaranteed $50,000 a year in impact funds for nearby neighborhoods was gone, too. Instead, the city was to get a $3-per-ticket fee to help cover its costs, and the neighborhoods got 50 cents per ticket. If attendance in 2012 matched that in 2011, Baltimore's cut would have amounted to about $330,000, or less than half of what it cost the city to put on the inaugural event. Baltimore was also entitled to 10 percent of the profits in excess of $1 million, but given the near-universal expectation that the race would be a money-loser in the short term, that didn't mean much.
The proposed contract with the team of Andretti Sports Marketing and Race On LLC (a new, locally owned firm) is substantially similar to the one with Downforce Racing, only a little less favorable to the city. Under this agreement, race organizers would pay the city a flat $350,000 fee up front, $50,000 of which would go toward neighborhood impact funds. The fee would increase by $25,000 a year during the five-year contract term, but that still would get the city nowhere close to covering its costs.
Perhaps we are supposed to be wowed by the Andretti name. Indeed, Mr. Andretti and his father, Mario, are practically synonymous with auto racing and have been involved with the sport for decades. In the mayor's news release, Mr. Andretti claims "a history of resurrecting races in cities such as Toronto, Milwaukee andSt. Petersburg, Fla." But the circumstance Baltimore finds itself in — 110 days between contract approval and race day, with no tickets sold, no sponsors and no marketing done — is somewhat unique. Mr. Andretti may be used to doing things fast, but this time, we're the ones taking a risk if he crashes.