The Grand Prix Race that thrilled residents and tourist last Labor Day weekend will return for a second run through the streets of Downtown Baltimore City.

Wary of falling into the same potholes of last year’s event, the City has revamped its’ contract terms and brought in a new team of organizers to navigate the win ding road of a successful 2012 Grand Prix Race.

“We know that, done correctly, the Grand Prix can be a success,” said JP Grant, of Grant Capital Management, a minority-owned lease-financing firm. “Years ago the City built Harborplace, the aquarium, and the stadium and they’re all gems of the city. We have to keep going and keep moving the city forward. We know this event has enormous potential.”

160,000 on-lookers crowded downtown Baltimore last year from around the country and abroad to see the inaugural race, and even more are expected to do the same this Labor Day weekend, which begins August 31.

The coveted contract to control all operations and commercial endeavors of the event was won by Race On, LLC, after the Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved the deal May 16. The company is comprised of two separate entities, Grant Capital Management, and BMW Construction Specialists, which is led by Greg O’Neill.

Race On, LLC has also teamed up with world class racing giant, Michael Andretti, of Andretti Sports Marketing to help facilitate the event.

“We’ve done a lot of research and we feel that this race could be the street event of the world,” said Michael Andretti, chief executive officer and president of Andretti Sports Marketing, an Indianapolis-based company.

“I feel very confident that this is going to come off well. We’re going to have a world class event that’s going to be here for many, many years,” said Andretti, who has 42 wins under his belt with his Indianapolis based company.

Grant says that the 2012 Grand Prix of Baltimore will include more community involvement and put a stronger focus on the commercial aspects of the event, with collaborations between race organizers and local hotels and businesses.
Last year’s race ended with millions in unpaid wages to Baltimore City, local small businesses, and major corporations that all jumped at the opportunity to help boost the local and state economy.

Months after the last car crossed the finish line,however, an outstanding balance of $487,971 in admissions and amusement taxes remained unpaid. The Parking Authority was shorted $50,862, and managers of the event had driven themselves into $750,000 hole with the City, which wanted reimbursement for monies that had been invested up front.

Proponents for the race met even more challenges this year after replacing the initial managers, Baltimore Racing Development, with Downforce Racing. The mayor terminated that contract earlier this year for not meeting City standards, leaving an opportunity for Race On, LLC to step up.

“The Grand Prix was a great event for Baltimore that boosted our local economy and showcased our city on the international stage,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake said in a statement announcing the new partnership. “This has been a difficult process, but Race On and Andretti Sports Marketing have what it takes to move forward and make this world-class sporting event successful for Baltimore.”

The Office of the Mayor reports that the race directly contributed $47 million to the economy. The City itself received over $1 million in tax revenue from hotel and parking taxes and other fees. That number doubled to $2 million for the total amount in taxes collected by the State of Maryland.

This year, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings- Blake has mandated in the new five-year agreement that all expenses with the City be paid before a single tire is placed on the track.

New contract terms also create an escrow account where all admissions and amusement taxes will be placed upon sale.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer