IndyCar CEO wants Calgary, but does Calgary want IndyCar? (5th Update)
|Calgary with the Stampede in the foreground. Rumors of this race first surfaced in Oct. 2012 as noted below|
Potential organizers of an IndyCar race in Calgary will only say they are in the process of determining if a race is viable for the city before moving ahead with plans.
"As part of this due diligence and exploration, (co-owner) Kim Green and I have been in market to evaluate possible race sites, to meet with interested parties and to gather feedback," Green Savoree Racing Promotions co-owner, president and chief operating officer Kevin Savoree said in a statement.
"Calgary is a city that continues to be hungry for exciting professional sporting events and we certainly believe that a motorsports event would fit that model.
"We see this as an exciting opportunity from a business perspective, but also for the many race fans in Calgary and Western Canada. We will confirm any new details in the future when appropriate."
Five days after Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe told the Herald that he and his team's co-owner Ric Peterson wanted to bring a race to Calgary, an online report Tuesday said that a Verizon IndyCar Series race would likely be held in Calgary in September 2017. It would be the first major motorsport event hosted in the city.
The Calgary businessman who came up with the idea cautioned on Tuesday that the economy would decide on when the race would be held.
"(September, 2017) is kind of the date but if the economy gets worse or even stays as bad as it is, it will likely be pushed back to 2018," Peterson told the Herald.
Peterson co-owns Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and his company, Oculus Transport Ltd., is based in Calgary. Schmidt Peterson employs Hinchcliffe, the only Canadian driver on North America's top open-wheel circuit.
While a Calgary race was Peterson's idea, he has since handed the project off to Green Savoree Racing Promotions of Indianapolis, Ind. Green Savoree owns, operates and promotes IndyCar's Honda Indy Toronto and Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Fla., which opens the 2016 schedule on March 13.
"My role is not very big," Peterson said. "It was my idea but I've handed things over to the proper people and they are looking after things now."
If successful, Peterson's plan would bring IndyCar back to Western Canada for the first time since the Edmonton Indy folded in 2012 after seven years. The demise of that race was blamed on poor attendance and a lack of financial support from Edmonton's corporate community.
Peterson doesn't see the same problem arising in Calgary.
"There is lots of corporate head offices in Calgary and people do a great job of supporting the Calgary Stampede and you get 100,000 people at the Stampede each day for 10 days," he said.
"Racing interest seems to be there," Peterson added. "Our driver was in Calgary last week and he was on four TV stations and in two newspapers so the media is interested as well."
If IndyCar came to Calgary the course would likely wind through the downtown and originate at the Stampede grounds, though Peterson said that hadn't been decided.
"The course has not been identified and it likely wouldn't be unveiled until a year before the race is held," he said.
Stampede Park spokesman Kurt Kadatz said they would welcome being involved.
"We are always working with clients on potential events here at Stampede Park, so at this stage I could say that we'd be excited to host an event like the Indy here at Stampede Park. It would be great for the city and a tourism generator," he said.
Toronto's Molson Indy is Canada's only IndyCar race. Vancouver Molson Indy ran from 1990 to 2004 and the Edmonton race debuted the following year. The Toronto event will be run for the 30th time on July 17, 2016 on a 2.824 km street course at Exhibition Place.
The Verizon IndyCar Series will feature 16 races in 2016, starting with St. Petersburg race and wrapping up with the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma I California on Sept. 18. New races have been added this year in Wisconsin, Phoenix and Boston.
Hinchcliffe visited Calgary last week to attend the Oculus Transport Ltd., Christmas party. In an interview with the Herald he said the plan was for a race in 2017 but that things "were in the early stages."
"Hopefully I'll be racing right out there soon," he said, motioning with his head toward Seventh Avenue.
Calgary has not seen auto racing of any kind since Race City Motorsport Park closed in the fall of 2011. It opened in the summer of 1985 and featured a 3.2 kilometer, 11-turn road course. Calgary Herald
12/01/15 Ric Peterson, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, told Motorsport.com: "Things are coming along pretty darn good. It's in the hands of Green-Savoree [the racing promotions company owned by former Indy car team principals Kevin Savoree and Kim Green] but they're very good about keeping me updated. The original plan was for September 2017 and that still looks like a good possibility."
"No doubt about it, Canada still has a real passion for open-wheel racing,” said Peterson, who founded Calgary-based oilfield hauling company Oculus. "The area just really supports sporting events of all kinds. For example, the Calgary Stampede attracts more than 100,000 people for more than 10 days in a row!"
"Using the Stampede grounds means the race and preparations for the race shouldn't interfere with people's day-to-day lives, even though it's right in the heart of Calgary. So I don't expect opposition from the local population, nor from the media. For example, [SPM driver] James Hinchcliffe came to town last week for an Oculus customer appreciation event, and while he was here he was on four different TV stations and in two different newspapers. The enthusiasm and support for racing is clearly there.
"It would definitely be a problem if we had no Canadians in the series, but at least in James we have one and hopefully there will soon be more."
"It's a relatively short summer up here. The Stampede is in July and then in August a lot of people are on holiday. But by September, everyone has come back to town," the preferred month for the first race in 2017.
"Right from when we started looking at a Calgary event, the people we've spoken to in prominent positions and the conversations we've had have all been positive,” four-time IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe told Motorsport.com.
"Certainly I'd say there have been surprisingly few roadblocks up to this point.
"That said, no-one's had to write a check yet! But I think we've communicated with the right people on the city side, and everyone on the racing side is eager to be there. So I'd say the signs are that this will happen in the not-too-distant future."
I'm an east coast boy, sure, but above all I'm a Canadian, and so the more races we have north of the border, the better. I know how popular Vancouver was before we lost that in 2004, and Edmonton was really strong for a couple of years. The market is there and the Canadian race fans are super-cool, super-enthusiastic. Ideally I'd like three races in Canada. But before we get to three, we need to get back up to two."
"After Vancouver's demise, Calgary was the next logical choice. It's the financial hub of western Canada and it had already been discussed as a potential venue. But then with it being the home event for Ric [Peterson] and Oculus, that really got the momentum going and he's been super-motivated to make it happen.
"He found the right people to talk to, and so I think there are now a lot of decision-makers who can see a Calgary race will make a lot of sense."
11/29/15 James Hinchcliffe was in Calgary on Thursday to attend a party, but he wants to be back within a couple of years for work.
The lone Canadian driver in IndyCar, he continues to work towards bringing a race to the streets of Calgary. Hinchcliffe drives for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is co-owned by Calgarian Ric Peterson.
"It's something we are actively pursuing," the 28-year-old Oakville, Ont., native said on Thursday.
"Ric and myself and a few people have been talking about it for awhile, so we've put the wheels in motion to try and make that happen.
"We had the Vancouver race for a bunch of years and the Edmonton race for a bunch of years and I think this part of Canada really gets into motorsports. We'd love to see a race here."
Hinchcliffe was in town to attend a Christmas party thrown by Peterson's company, Oculus Transport Ltd. He's been sponsored by Peterson and well-known IndyCar owner Sam Schmidt since the fall of 2014. Hinchcliffe joined IndyCar in 2011 and won rookie of the year. He's won four races.
Toronto's Molson Indy has been the only Canadian IndyCar race since the Edmonton Indy folded in 2012 after seven years.
It suffered from poor attendance and lack of financial support from local businesses. Vancouver Molson Indy ran from 1990 to 2004, won that final year by Canadian Paul Tracy.
Peterson told the Globe and Mail in April that a Calgary event wouldn't have the same problems as the one in Edmonton.
"There are a lot more corporate head offices in Calgary and they just seem to know how to pull off big events. The Calgary Stampede is unbelievable - every year I just shake my head at how they can draw in 100,000 people, 10 days in a row," he said.
Hinchcliffe hopes to be racing the streets of Calgary within a couple of years.
"Obviously it's not going to happen in 2016, but for 2017 and beyond there's certainly a potential for it," he said.
"We're still in the early days." Jeff Mackinnon/Calgary Herald
|Hinchcliffe working on landing an Alberta race for IndyCar|
If things go according to plan, IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe hopes to be battling for a win on the streets of downtown Calgary in 2017.
After getting a positive reaction from the city officials in a preliminary meeting earlier this year, Hinchcliffe and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team co-owner and Calgary native Ric Peterson can already see an Alberta race on the horizon.
"The ducks are all kind of starting to get in a row," said four-time IndyCar race winner Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ont.
"We still have a lot of work to do on it, but the initial conversations have really been quite good and we are excited about it. I would love to have it in place for 2017; it's a lofty goal but you got to have goals."
|Calgary is due south from Edmonton|
Fans might recall that IndyCar previously ran a race in Alberta, but the event in Edmonton never found enough corporate support to be viable. Peterson, who owns Oculus Transportation, a successful oil-field services company, feels corporate support shouldn't be an issue in Calgary.
"It's different promoters, which will make a big, big difference," Peterson said.
"There are a lot more corporate head offices in Calgary and they just seem to know how to pull off big events.
"The Calgary Stampede is unbelievable - every year I just shake my head at how they can draw in 100,000 people, 10 days in a row."
The date for the event is yet to be determined, but it might make sense from a promoter and series perspective to have both Canadian races back-to-back as happened with the Toronto-Edmonton pairing.
“There are a couple of different challenges with the season being condensed,” Hinchcliffe said. “We have one in mind that we would like and we are getting everything in place before we bring it in a more formal capacity to the series." Globe and Mail
|James Hinchcliffe with his girlfriend Kirsten|
Motorsport.com reports that Schmidt Peterson's James Hinchcliffe, along with team co-owner and Calgary businessman Ric Peterson are making a push to bring IndyCar back to western Canada.
"When we had Vancouver, it was one of the best races on the calendar. Edmonton was popular at first, but with the political issues and the promoters there it kind of killed that one. Ric and I have talked a lot about a street race in Calgary. We all know the city is capable of running big events, they do it every year," Hinchcliffe told Motorsport.com.
"IndyCar is very much in favor of having a race in Calgary," Peterson said, adding that even the Calgary Stampede grounds could play host to the event, but that would be determined by the City, user groups and promoters.
"It would be awesome to see (a race in Calgary) in the 2016 season. Whether we can pull that off or not I am not sure. I don't really see why not. That would be my hope, but even if we shot for 2017, that would be fine," Peterson said.
"There were a lot of reasons why a street race in Calgary not only makes a lot of sense, but would be massively successful," said Hinchcliffe, adding that the oil industry and auto industry go hand in hand.
"(We) want to try and do what we can to try and push that agenda forward because I think it benefits Canadian motorsports, it benefits the City, and it benefits IndyCar as a whole because Canada has always been massively supportive of IndyCar racing. The fans there are second to none."
10/15/12 IndyCar's chief executive once got a taste of Calgary's hospitality and he would love some more.
But Randy Bernard told Metro in an exclusive interview that while a promoter did approach the circuit about sponsoring a local open-wheel racing event last year, the pitch "never went anywhere."
"I think it needs to make financial sense for our partner in any city we go to," he said. "There's other cities in Canada that are very interested in a race."
With the main sponsor of the Edmonton Indy, Octane Motorsports, pulling out of hosting the annual race, only Indy Toronto remains as far as the circuit's activities north of the border are concerned.
Bernard has said he was hopeful that Indy would return to two Canadian cities as early as 2014, but said Calgary was not likely to host an event so soon - if ever.
Nevertheless, the reminiscing CEO does have a personal connection to the local events scene, serving as an intern with the Calgary Stampede in 1988.
"Being there for a summer - five months - and seeing how much the city gets involved in its events, I think it would be a great market for us in Canada," Bernard said. "I just love the city and the people, it would be great to have a race there."
Local Ald. Shane Keating has mused about drawing an international racing circuit to a new track being pitched near Airdrie, known formally as the Rockyview Motorsports Park.
"If we can make something like that work, it's something we should definitely look into it," he said last month, just days after Edmonton Indy was cancelled.
Officials involved in raising funding for the $30-million project have confirmed that while the development does not hinge on drawing large racing circuits, they could well be accommodated in the existing design.
Bernard said having a track already in place has led to "huge savings" in other Indy cities and added that the local market is one the circuit would never rule out.
"I love Calgary . . . it's one of my favorite cities in the whole world," he said. MetroNews Canada