The likelihood of a fourth annual Baltimore Grand Prix happening next year continues to improve, according to Andretti Sports Management, promoters of the downtown street course event.
With IndyCar's stated plan to shift its season finale to the Labor Day weekend Baltimore has traditionally held, searching for a new date to hold the event has been the biggest challenge for ASM. And with two major sporting teams to work with—the Baltimore Orioles, whose stadium is inside the track, and the nearby Baltimore Ravens, along with the Baltimore mayor's office, confirming the return of the Grand Prix has yet to happen, but it could take place sooner than expected.
“The good news is universally everybody was thrilled with the event,” ASM managing director Kevin Healy told RACER. “I think Baltimore has proved once again to be a really exciting race. I think from an event perspective the league was happy, both leagues were happy. The city, the feedback we've gotten universally is the fans really enjoyed themselves and it was a good event.
“As we move forward, we're working as hard as we can as quickly as possible to secure dates so everyone is focused on the same thing; it's not a question of if anyone wants to do the deal, it's just a question of getting all the pieces together. And in Baltimore there's a lot of variables that have to come together between the Major League Baseball schedule. We have met with the Orioles as well as both sanctioning bodies (IndyCar and IMSA), trying to coordinate and meet all the criteria necessary. So I'm hopeful we'll have everything resolved in another week or so.”
It's too early to speculate where the Baltimore event would move on the calendar, but Healy believes there are a few options that could work.
“The important piece is everybody wants to make sure this event stays on the calendar going forward,” he continued. “It's a question of finding the best way to create some dates which the leagues, both sports car and IndyCar, will need going forward, as well as – when you look at the number of entities this impacts in Baltimore between the Orioles, the Ravens, the convention center and a number of others, getting all of them aligned is always the biggest challenge, but we've come up with some new solutions. In touching base with everyone before and after the event, everyone is intent on making it work. It's just too good an event for all involved.”
Along with event owner J.P. Grant, the ASM team has made significant progress in digging the Baltimore event out from the financial issues that plagued the inaugural event, which was run by a different organization.
“The economic impact for Baltimore is significant,” added Healy. “And I think the first year, unfortunately, it got very clouded in the finances. Putting on a street race is exceptionally difficult. Without the experienced team that we bring, you could lose control of expenses and other sorts of things very quickly. There are so many things that have to get done in time and coordinated and it's quite the enterprise to do it and to do it successfully, which I feel we've done.
“One of the things that we really focused on last year was making sure that we could move pedestrians in and out, get all the fans coordinated with all the city services, make sure all the other things are flowing. And a lot of those were the areas that had the most push-back, beyond the concern that some people weren't paid that first year. Ultimately, after the first year, my understanding is that everyone eventually got paid and we've been able to move forward on our own.”
At the current rate of progress, and once the date selection process is completed, news on the continuation of the Baltimore Grand Prix might be ready before the IndyCar Series goes racing at Houston in early October.
“I'm hopeful that we can get this all wrapped up in the next couple of weeks,” said Healy. “I think the city was thrilled with how it went. I talked to the chief of police and others in unified command and the level of cooperation there is fantastic. They're part of the planning process, too, which is important, and I think in the execution of the event you could see that everyone worked very closely and very hard together. There are a lot of people coming together to get this done quickly so we can start planning for next year.”