IndyCar road race in Fort Lauderdale still possible in 2013 UPDATE #10 A request for $20 million in county tourist taxes for a Grand Prix at Fort Lauderdale beach was flatly rejected Tuesday by an otherwise enthusiastic Broward County Commission.
The idea of a new signature event during a dry tourism period, and one that would advertise Broward County nationally and internationally, sounds great, commissioners said. But not at that cost.
"A $20 million request is so far out of the realm of possibility of anything we've ever considered before,'' Mayor John Rodstrom told the president of Andretti Sports Marketing and his team of consultants and supporters.
Still, county commissioners agreed Tuesday to move the proposal forward, excited by the sound of a professional street race and weekend urban festival at central Fort Lauderdale beach every October or November. By unanimous vote, they asked county staff to meet with the show promoters and come back with a request for less money, and with answers to a host of questions, including the benefit to county tourism, if hotel bed taxes are to be used.
"This is a huge, huge deal, should we be able to land something like this,'' said Rodstrom.
John Lopes, president of Andretti Sports Marketing, the company proposing the Grand Prix, said afterward that he hadn't planned to talk about the financial request just yet.
"We're still learning the local community in terms of the palate for funding,'' he said.
While it's clear the county won't give him the $20 million spread over five years that he wanted, he said he's not sure how low he can go and still put on a show. The event's budget each year is $10 million to $15 million, and it won't turn a profit at first, he said.
"If the number's zero,'' he said of the county's financial help, "there probably won't ever be a race here.''
Lopes also is working with the city of Fort Lauderdale to determine the show's costs for city services, and he hasn't asked the city for money.
He's on a tight timetable to make a 2013 launch possible. The private and public financial support has to be lined up by late December, he said, or the planning would have to shift to a 2014 race. Sun-Sentinel
11/13/12 “We’ve been working on this for a long time and we’re still in the due diligence phase of trying to determine if it’s something we can pull off,” said John Lopes of Andretti Sports Marketing, whose company has become the go-to operation for turnkey racing events.
“A final deal with the city is not in place yet but what is in place is a lot of enthusiasm from the corporate community.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who captured the 2012 IZOD IndyCar title in dramatic fashion for Andretti Autosport, resides in Fort Lauderdale and it was his idea to bring the series back next to the Atlantic Ocean.
“Absolutely, it all began with Ryan and it’s his vision,” acknowledged Lopes. “It’s a cool layout along highway A1A and if it happens it would be spectacular.
“Kinda like the USA version of Surfer’s Paradise (longtime CART race on Australia’s Gold Coast).”
It would also give IndyCar a 20th race in 2013 and hopefully shore up a big gap in the current schedule where there is no race from Sept. 1 (Baltimore) to Oct. 5 (Houston doubleheader).
The Fort Lauderdale papers speculated that it could be in October to coincide with the popular boat show.
“The boat show is the most important event in Fort Lauderdale and it’s something we wouldn’t interfere with,” said Lopes. “The time frame we’re looking at is either September or October.”
As to a timeline for making a decision? “We could probably go as late as Christmas and still pull off a race next year but any later than that and we’re looking at 2014.”
In the meantime, Lopes and his people will meet with the city and county sectors to determine how much funding could be provided and how much then needed to be raised.
“We’re still digging and we’ve still got a long way to go,” he said. “But today Ryan and our group met with some community and corporate leaders and there were 12-13 people that stood up to speak for the event. That’s encouraging.” Speed.com
11/13/12 See related Hot News item.
10/22/12 Ryan Hunter-Reay believes an IndyCar race on a street course near the beach could happen as soon as next fall, even though it's not on the series schedule for 2013 released last month.
"There are slots of dates that could work that we could add to it. We're working to get it done, whether it be next year or the year after," Hunter-Reay said at the DHL event. "The fans want to see it, the series wants to see it happen, the city wants to see it happen."
This is a good time for Hunter-Reay, a Fort Lauderdale resident who grew up in Boca Raton and graduated from Cardinal Gibbons, to exert his influence. Last month he became the first American to win the IndyCar series title since 2006, winning four races along the way.
The city is holding a day in his honor Wednesday, including a public celebration on Las Olas Boulevard from 6-9 p.m.
The IndyCar league, which last raced in South Florida at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2010, has been pushing for a Fort Lauderdale race on a street course near the beach ala the Monaco Grand Prix. A proposed two-mile route would loop around A1A and Seabreeze Boulevard south from Las Olas.
The main stumbling block for a season-ending race in October is possible conflict with the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, a cornerstone economic event for the city.
If agreeable scheduling can be worked out, Hunter-Reay sees the race as a spectacular addition to the local landscape of sun, sand, water and boats, based on his experience of racing in a nearly identical setting at Surfers Paradise on Australia's Gold Coast, site of his first big win.
"It was the most spectacular helicopter views with all the yachts on one side and the beach on the other, and race cars going by at 200 miles per hour," he said. "It's a perfect fit here.
"If it's done the right way it could be the crown jewel of the series behind the Indy 500." Sun-Sentinel05/26/12 After a two-year absence from the streets of South Florida, the IndyCar league wants to return, CEO Randy Bernard said Friday.
Only instead of running at the Miami-Homestead Speedway or through downtown Miami, the open-wheel racers want to turn A1A and Las Olas Boulevard into a street course. (See circuit map AR1.com drew further down in this rumor).
“Fort Lauderdale is a place we would like to go,” Bernard said. “We want to continue to discuss those options.”
The idea for a Fort Lauderdale street course was first proposed in 2011. With the backing of Fort Lauderdale driver Ryan Hunter-Reay — who attended high school at Pine Crest and Cardinal Gibbons — and Michael Andretti Sports Marketing, there is hope the “Fort Lauderdale Grand Prix” could serve as the IndyCar season finale next October or November.
Chaz Adams, Fort Lauderdale’s public affairs manager, wrote in an email that the city is working with the promoter on an “event agreement” that includes “specific operational and logistical details,” which include how the race will be set up and broke down, traffic plans as well as safety plans. The promoter, Adams wrote, also needs to reach out to local residents and businesses that would be affected by the race. Once all that is completed, it can go to the city commission for approval.
“The city is supportive of the event,” Adams wrote, “as it will bring tremendous international exposure to Fort Lauderdale, attract thousands of visitors to our city, generate millions of dollars in economic impact for our businesses, and strengthen our city’s position as a premier destination for travel and tourism.”
Hunter-Reay, who will start on the first row for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, said last week that every time he drives by that area all he can see is potential.
“It’s been a dream of mine, since high school, to race on those roads,” Hunter-Reay said from his garage in Indianapolis. “My first big win was in Surfers Paradise, Australia. It’s just like Fort Lauderdale. They couldn’t be more alike. There’s the ocean, an Intracoastal, and a strip of land. It was the most magnificent race weekend.
“Fort Lauderdale, done right, will be a home run. I can see the helicopter views of the boats on the water, the yachts, the people on the beach, IndyCars doing 200 on A1A. It would be a dream come true.”
The proposed track would start near the Sheraton Yankee Clipper and head northbound on A1A before turning at Las Olas and working its way to the yacht basin and back around to southbound A1A (Seabreeze Boulevard) — passing landmarks such as the Intracoastal, Swimming Hall of Fame and the Elbo Room along the way.
Hunter-Reay said the track would be just over two miles with the parking lots just north of the Yankee Clipper on the east side of A1A serving as pit road.
“Street circuits are extremely difficult projects to not only manage, but make successful,” Hunter-Reay said. “We’re working on it. IndyCar wants it to happen, Fort Lauderdale wants it to happen. All the right people want it to happen. We already have sponsor support and interest. But there are obstacles to clear. Everyone is pushing in the right direction which is nice. Planning this has been exciting.”
Although there is much work to be done — Andretti’s marketing company has offices in Fort Lauderdale and is expected to promote the event — IndyCar has made it clear it wants to return to a popular spot on their schedule.
One of the concerns for a Fort Lauderdale race is a late season race may conflict with the popular boat show which will be held from Oct. 25-29 this year.
A Fort Lauderdale race could be run at the start of the 2013 IndyCar season as the league used to open its year in Homestead. But it appears the focus is on a season-ending race that would be nationally televised from Fort Lauderdale beach. The race could be run once the boat show is concluded.
“We have been in discussions with them but I don’t know how close things are right now,” said Carol Hudson, who recently took over as director of sports for the Fort Lauderdale tourism and convention bureau.
“The discussions have sounded favorable. I think it would be a great event. It would bring major media attention. The question is whether you can make it happen logistically.”
The final IndyCar race in Homestead was the 2010 season finale as the series didn’t return after it couldn’t come to terms with the Miami-Homestead Speedway — nor any of the other tracks managed by NASCAR’s International Speedway Corporation.
IndyCar and other open-wheel series — such as CART — have been part of the South Florida racing landscape since the 1980s. A race in South Florida — where the series has strong ties locally and internationally — would likely be one of the gems of the schedule.
“We’ve been able to generate a lot of interest with the city street races because you’ve got cities and economic development groups within the states wanting to have what they call ‘big events,’ ” team owner Roger Penske said. “I think that’s proven to be successful.” Miami Herald
[Editor's Note: Look for the France Family and ISC to do their best politically to kill this race. They do not want any competition to their Homestead track.]03/08/12 During Wednesday's media day in St. Petersburg, Florida IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard addressed two Florida areas as possibilities for future series events.
Fort Lauderdale was considered as a candidate for the season finale this year, but Bernard said talks of a street race there stalled when disagreements arose between the Ryan Hunter-Reay camp who first conceived the event and the Dale Dillon camp who are trying to muscle in on the action and become the race promoter like his group is doing for the Baltimore GP. The problem is that Dale Dillon is a contractor, not a race promoter, so we'll see how well the Baltimore race is doing three years from now.
"They either need to make it happen or not make it happen," Bernard said.
The Indy Racing League raced at Walt Disney World Speedway from 1996 to 2000, but the track would have to address noise concerns because of nearby animals and SAFER barrier issues before IndyCar would consider returning to the 1-mile trioval.12/14/11 We have since learned that the proposed IndyCar circuit in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. would extend a bit further south (left) along the beach so we have revised our circuit diagram to include that and what we believe will be the pit lane. Click to enlarge and then zoom to see detail.
12/13/11 Below is what we have been told is the proposed IndyCar circuit in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Click to enlarge and then zoom to see detail.
The reality is IndyCar needs a premium location that has the real ability to be a major success (Title sponsor, sell out of suites, full grandstands, huge pre-sales and walk up ticket sales, etc.) and Ft. Lauderdale has it in spades. Great for season final with up scale hotels, yachts, charity dinners, etc. Lots of Fortune 500 companies in Broward County, tons of CEO’s, huge port with some of the biggest cruise ships in the world to do joint promotions with, largest selling Porsche and Audi dealers are in Ft. Lauderdale. Home to AutoNation, the largest auto dealer in America, etc. etc.
Major home run and great why to shine a positive light on IndyCar if done right. Could become America's Monaco.
11/23/11 Promoters of the Fort Lauderdale Grand Prix 2013 held an open house last Wednesday night at the Swimming Hall of Fame, showing their plans to the community and inviting feedback.
The reception was mostly positive, with one overriding caveat: Don't do anything that hurts the annual Fort Lauderdale Boat Show.
Tentative plans have the grand prix running in October 2013, three weeks before the boat show. Boat show officials said that would interfere with their set-up schedule, which starts at the beginning of October.
"It doesn't work three weeks before the boat show," said Dane Graziano, senior vice president for Boat Show Management & Production.
With two years to plan, officials said there's plenty of time to resolve any issues.
"Details as it relates to the boat show have got to be worked out," Mayor Jack Seiler said. "We're never going to do anything to compromise that event."
Grand prix promoters also said they're flexible and said they would meet with boat show officials.
"We're not here to replace or interrupt any existing event," promoter Dale Dillon told the audience.
Dillon said after the meeting the city had picked the tentative date being discussed, not his group. The race also had dates available at the end of September, he said, which is still part of the slow tourism period.
Seiler isn't convinced keeping the two events closer together can't be done. He thinks the boat show and grand prix could even find ways of sharing some facilities.
"I'm almost thinking there could be a very complementary relationship," Seiler said. Sun Sentinel06/21/11 As for a street race in Fort Lauderdale, IndyCar's Terry Angstadt said plans are under way there for a potential race in 2013. The local effort is led by Dale Dillon, who has been involved with other IndyCar street races.
"He's a very capable guy, and they have a methodical plan; they've touched a lot of bases locally," he said. "It's a gorgeous, very well laid-out circuit."
Nothing will happen, however, until the organizers get local approval to move forward, Angstadt said. AutoWeek06/17/11 Two major events are looking at coming to the city's beach. One is the return of the Air & Sea Show; the other is a Monte Carlo-style street race.
A group of promoters want to resurrect the air show next April. They propose a scaled-down version of the annual event that long drew tens of thousands of people to the beach to watch stunt pilots and view fighter jets and bombers
The street race could come in fall 2013. A group of racing world insiders want to host a grand prix in which IndyCar drivers would follow a course along State Road A1A and surrounding seaside streets at speeds of up to 185 mph.
Both events are seeking the tentative endorsement of city commissioners next week so they can draw up more detailed plans. Neither has asked for the city for financial support.
"These are two signature events that would have a significant impact on Fort Lauderdale with national and international attention," Mayor Jack Seiler said. "The city has always been a tourist destination, but you got to constantly keep reminding everyone about how Fort Lauderdale is such a great place to visit."
The Air & Sea Show ran for 13 years but ended after the 2007 show when its title sponsors withdrew. At its peak, the event was televised in 144 countries, serving as a marketing tool for the city as the "Venice of America."
An effort to bring back an air show last year failed when organizers could not secure the necessary cash.
Longtime beach developer Ramola Motwani is joining with a company that runs other air shows to propose the return next spring. B. Lilley Inc. has produced the air show in Cocoa Beach for three years and one in Ocean City, Md., for four years. Both events have been headlined by the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds.
They want the show to run from noon to 4 p.m. April 28-29 with more limited closing of State Road A1A and Sunrise Boulevard. To prepare for the show's possible return, Seiler said he wrote the Air Force and the Navy two months ago to reserve aircraft for 2012 and 2013.
The Fort Lauderdale Grand Prix would potentially join the IZOD IndyCar Series, according to promoters.
IndyCar conducts 17 races a year in the United States, Canada, Japan and Brazil with its premier event being the Indianapolis 500. The series lost its presence in South Florida last year when it dropped its race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Fort Lauderdale race promoters include construction executive Dale Dillon, who has been involved in the grand prix in St. Petersburg and Toronto, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, a top IndyCar driver who grew up in the area. They received permission from the IndyCar Series to explore a Fort Lauderdale race and will pursue detailed engineering plans for a race route if the city gives the go-ahead.
They propose a three-day event with about 120 professional and amateur teams competing in a variety of races over a two-mile route. They have told city officials that Fort Lauderdale could become the pre-eminent street-course race in motorsports in the United States, on par with Monaco.
Similar IndyCar races drew 150,000 spectators, according to IndyCar officials and promoters. IndyCar's races are broadcast on ABC and NBC Universal's Versus sports channel, and promoters say they would seek to have Fort Lauderdale be one of the major telecasts.
"When you look at the backdrop of the beach and the Intracoastal Waterway and the marina, it would be one of the more exciting events that I've seen in my 25 years in IndyCar," Dillon said. "We truly believe that it could rival some of the top races in the world." Sun-Sentinel