Phoenix Champ Car race cancelled UPDATE #2 The Grand Prix Arizona maneuvered past many political obstacles, but financial pressures ultimately blocked the race, organizers and observers say.
On Tuesday, organizers announced that they would cancel the three-day Champ Car race event set for downtown Phoenix this fall. An estimated 1,000 ticket holders would get full refunds, they said. The race could be staged next year, they said.
Grand Prix Arizona was billed as a mega-event that would bring high-adrenaline car racing downtown for the next five years with a projected $65 million in annual economic impact. The two-mile track would have snaked around Chase Field, US Airways Center, Phoenix Convention Center and other landmarks.
"The sponsorship levels didn't even come close to what we needed to be able to pull this off the way that we wanted to," said Phoenix businessman Dale Jensen. Jensen, part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns, teamed up with business partner Brad Yonover to orchestrate the event.
Grand Prix lost its title sponsor, First Data Independent Sales Fresno, earlier this year and was unable to find a replacement.
The race also had trouble enticing other corporate sponsors as well, Jensen said.
Mayor Phil Gordon said he was disappointed.
"My hopes were that there would be more activity downtown for people to enjoy," said Gordon, who worked on a compromise between Grand Prix Arizona and rival Phoenix International Raceway.
"If this particular thing's day has not come yet, there will be many other things."
Champ Car and other auto-racing events have to meet key financial goals to be successful, said Michael Knight of Scottsdale, a racing blogger. The organizers rely on title sponsors, an array of other corporate backing, television-broadcast rights and hospitality-suite sales to help bankroll the event.
"They are definitely difficult to pull together," Knight said.
A similar race that the organizers held in downtown Las Vegas over Easter got mixed reviews from locals, according to newspaper accounts. Although some city leaders were pleased with the event, some complained that it blocked access to and closed streets longer than expected. Jensen estimates that more than 100,000 people attended the event, but would not say how many paid for admission. AZCentral.com
08/29/07 Plans for Grand Prix Arizona came to a screeching halt Tuesday as organizers canceled the event after two years of planning and just 90 days before the big race.
In a statement released to the media, race organizers Dale Jensen and Brad Yonover said economic turmoil led to a poor sponsorship showing.
Sponsor Executive RV Rental still had information on the event posted on its Web site and a countdown to raceday, which read 94 days. Other Sponsors included Denver-based General Sports Alliance, First Data Independent Sales and Bombay Sapphire.
"An event of this magnitude requires considerable corporate support and though we did establish some outstanding partnerships, there were simply not enough of these to create economic viability," Jensen said, owner and managing member of Champ Car, the organization putting on the race. He also is a former part owner of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Phoenix leaders, business owners and even the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office had participated in preparations for the race. Volunteers had been organized, race tickets sold and hotel rooms booked in the past months. In March, open-wheel racer cars were brought in to make a test-run on the course through downtown Phoenix. Sheriff's officials tested the sound to make sure the race did not violate noise ordinances.
The Phoenix City Council voted 7-2 last September to allow the Champ Car street races in the southeastern portion of downtown. A similar Grand Prix race was held downtown in the late 1980s, but lasted only three years due to poor attendance.
In February, the Champ Car World Series postponed this season's Denver Grand Prix, which was to be run August 15. The cancellation of these races will not affect the 2008 Vegas Grand Prix, slated to run on April 4-6. Phoenix Business Journal08/28/07 After nearly two years of planning and preparing for Grand Prix Arizona, the organizers of this Champ Car race have determined that it is no longer viable and are therefore canceling the event for 2007.
“An event of this magnitude requires considerable corporate support and though we did establish some outstanding partnerships, there were simply not enough of these to create economic viability,” said Dale Jensen, owner and managing member of the sports property. “On behalf of my partner, Brad Yonover, and our staff that has worked so hard on this project, we thank everyone throughout the community – and in particular the City of Phoenix – for their tremendous support along the way. Unfortunately, current economic turmoil and the impact it has had on our sponsors precludes us from being able to produce the caliber of event we had envisioned.”
Jensen indicated that this decision has no effect on the Vegas Grand Prix, which is scheduled to start the season for the 2008 Champ Car series next April 4 – 6.
For the many race fans that had purchased Grand Prix Arizona tickets, online or by telephone, full refunds will be automatically made. For those who bought their tickets at a Ticket Master outlet, they must return them to the outlet of purchase for a full refund.
Note: A taped statement by Dale Jensen, owner and managing member of Grand Prix Arizona will be available online at www.thenewsmarket.com/ChampCar starting at 5:30 p.m. PST. The clip is titled Grand Prix Arizona – Official Statement.