Q&A with Kevin Savoree on St. Pete GP
Indycar.com caught up with Kevin Savoree for five questions regarding the event and Andretti Green Promotions.
Q: How valuable is that as a promoter to have the city government behind this project?
A: Mayor (Rick) Baker has been the biggest cheerleader. I think as much, too, he had a vision. I think the City Council sees that because if they didn't I don't think we would have gotten the extension that we were able to sign last year. I think that consensus of support that we have there goes to the city. You've got a lot of great race fans there and they turn out for the event. It starts with the mayor, goes to the City Council and the population of the area loves that car race. They love that event."
Q: How big is the effort of turning that area into a street course suitable for racing every year?
A: For a couple months we create a lot of jobs in that economy. There are hundreds of truckloads of freight brought in. There are thousands of man-hours. We move and install 2,000 concrete barriers and miles of track fence and tens of thousands of grandstands. That's a big, big job and that is just the track part. You also have the marketing and the spin and all the folks that are involved in that. It's a big project but we are heading down the home stretch.
Q: Because of the high overhead that goes into creating a street course, how challenging is it to make it worthwhile financially to the promoter?
A: It's no secret those numbers are pretty tough. Edmonton had great crowds but had a loss and Detroit had to miss this year. We were very fortunate in St. Petersburg that we were able to build a model and got great buy-in from associates where they manage budgets. I would put them up against anyone on the planet. We watch every dollar and know why we are spending every dollar. You have to have that. We also have a community that comes out in a big way to support the race. I think that is the other big part of the success. We've been very fortunate with the revenue side and great buy-in from national sponsors and great buy-in from local sponsors and the combination of that alone from the folks showing up on race weekend make it possible for us to be profitable.
Q: Did the experience at St. Pete give you the confidence to take over the Indy Toronto?
A: When we got to unification last year, all of us had history with Toronto but probably none more so than Michael Andretti. He just loved that race event. We challenged ourselves about applying that same model. Over the course of a few months of due diligence we gained a lot of confidence that we could. It takes that same very strict adherence to principles and discipline to follow that. We've made some pretty drastic changes up there and how the race is built and operated. The race was gone and we had a city and tourism that wanted that race back. Effectively, we knew the pieces of the puzzle to have in place to make that successful. One of those was our partners at Honda who asked us to keep them involved.
If you have a workable sanction agreement and a workable title sponsor with the right kind of agreement with local government, you could be successful. Those were very important building blocks that once we had those in place and we knew that had been successful in St. Pete that we could apply that to Toronto.
Q: The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is followed by Long Beach. How do you like starting the season with those two events?
A: As a competitor, it's hard to imagine not starting a better way. We are racing on one coast and it is beautiful weather and a great venue and a city that embraces the competitors. You cannot go anywhere in St. Petersburg that weekend without being embraced. It makes everybody feel good. When you go someplace like Long Beach, where people have raced there forever and it has so much history, we in the sport know that and embrace it. I think what a way to start.