City of Long Beach puts off vote on F1 bid request

Wednesday, 05 March 2014
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The future of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach's remains undecided as no action was taken in Tuesday night's city council meeting.

Bernie Ecclestone is interested in bringing Formula 1 back to Long Beach in 2016 and requested the city council vote on whether to open up the bidding process on the longest-running and most successful street race in North America. The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach currently holds the lease, which expires in June of 2015, and conducts an IndyCar race for the 31st consecutive year next month. But since there was no vote Tuesday, it's hard to say if that's good or bad for IndyCar and its fans.

"I don't think you can draw anything from them taking no action," said Eric Bradley, who covers city hall and politics for the Long Beach Press Telegram. "They can still decide to open it up or simply decide to stay with what they've got with GPALB."

Bradley wrote a story in Tuesday's editions estimating the upgrades to the circuit for F1's return between $50 and $100 million – not counting the estimated $28 million sanction fee that F1 would charge Long Beach.

Chris Pook, whose idea of an international street race in Long Beach began with Formula 5000 in 1975 before landing F1 from 1976-'83, is helping Ecclestone's efforts to return and says no money (other than the sanction fee) will be asked of the city with a private sector funding the improvements.

"We only want to use the streets and we just want to show what kind of an economic impact F1 could bring," Pook told to last weekend.

It's believed that GPALB co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe were only paying a sanction fee of $500,000 before it was re-negotiated to seven figures this year. Longtime GPALB president Jim Michaelian wouldn't give a figure but said the difference in sanctioning fees from IndyCar to F1 was "substantial."

Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong, chairman of the Budget Oversight Committee, told Bradley that any proposal could not deliver a tax bill to the city.

"We want the event to generate revenue, not expenses, for the city," said DeLong. "The Grand Prix Association has done a good job for the city and we need to be very careful before moving to another race organizer."

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