The Baltimore Grand Prix is coming to downtown again but planners say they are trying to avoid the disruption and expense to the city that marred the inaugural attempt to bring high speed racing to the Inner Harbor.
Preparation for the three-day Labor Day weekend event began July 30 with construction to involve 22 million pounds of concrete block, 2,200 steel fence panels, and five miles of spectator fencing to create a two-mile, 12-turn street circuit for exotic, turbocharged single-seat vehicles capable of speeds in excess of 180 miles an hour.
The race course, with a fresh road surface to be poured during the last few days before the race, will be along Russell Street and Light Street, with the start/finish line along Pratt Street.
After the inaugural race left many local vendors and investors fuming with $1.6 million in unpaid bills from the race and the Baltimore Racing Development, LLC dissolving without compensation, General Manager Tim Mayer of Andretti Sports Marketing is putting forth tremendous efforts to ensure that will not be the case this year.
“It is very important to note that this group is a different group than Baltimore Racing Development that put it together last year,” said Mayer. Andretti Sports Marketing and Race On, LLC are the financial backers for this year’s Grand Prix.
“We prepaid for all city services. All ticket tax goes into an escrow account. We ensure the state will get its tax revenue before we get our first dime,” said Mayer. “I think primarily people were scared off by horrific news reports that it was going to be a nightmare downtown. That wasn’t the case.”
Mayer said efforts have been made to ensure the Grand Prix worked with Minority and Women Owned Businesses (M/WBE) and gave them an opportunity to provide services. They worked especially close with the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women Owned Development (MWBW).
Tony Cotman of NZR Consulting, who is working on the Baltimore circuit, said, “Most of the construction is happening at night to minimize lane closures and road closures and make sure they are open again at 5 a.m.”
Twenty-five percent of the circuit will not be built until the last week to ensure businesses downtown will not be impacted. While the Grand Prix construction took 45 days last year, this year it has been cut down to 30.
Other changes to the Grand Prix this year are that the race will end around 6 p.m. instead of the later 9 p.m. time last year.
“We are trying to make sure the restaurants downtown gets the business they didn’t get last year. There are tens of thousands of parking spots. The MTA and circulator are open,” said Mayer.
Mayer encourages people to check out the hundreds of vendors, food options, Indy Fan Village, Family Fun Zone and Speed Zone, full of live bands and concerts during race days.