Did dirty politics kill Birmingham IndyCar funding? UPDATE Financial support from the city of Birmingham, Alabama for this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park was not approved this afternoon by city officials.
Instead of a proposed plan from Birmingham mayor William Bell that called for a four-year, $1.2 million contract for the annual IZOD IndyCar Series event, the city will make a contribution on “in-kind” services. According to Joseph D. Bryant of AL.com, Bell has withdrawn his original proposal and will return with a plan that provides funding for this year’s Barber race only, which will go on as scheduled.
City funding, which would go toward the race’s sanctioning fees, has been a prickly issue recently, with Bell and Birmingham City Council president Roderick Royal dueling last week over details and the length of Bell’s now-failed contract despite both of them supporting the race itself.
Now Bell plans to request a one-year funding contract of $300,000 later this month. According to his chief of staff, Chuck Faush, the Mayor must wait for at least two weeks to make any funding requests for the race since those had not met required advertised requirements.
“It’s evident that there is support and the council president indicates that he’s supportive of the event,” Faush told AL.com. “We will advertise it and wait two weeks.”
The IZOD IndyCar Series has raced at Barber since the 2010 campaign.03/26/13 Birmingham City Councilors debated about funding an annual IndyCar racing event at Barber Motorsports Park. In an evenly split vote, the funding failed.
The 4-year-deal would contribute $300,000 a year to Zoom Motorsports for the annual race.
Some Councilors say the benefit to the city does not justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. "The city is getting rope-a-doped," Councilor Roderick Royal said. While Royal and other councilors support the event, they think other municipalities should contribute some money or the city's contribution should diminish. "This is corporate welfare," Councilor Steven Hoyt said.
Other councilors say the event comes with a tremendous economic impact and international exposure. Over two years, Councilor Jay Roberson says the event contributed $80 million in economic impact for the community.
The contract stipulates Zoom will keep all the proceeds, which according to their representatives, is about $3.5 million each year.
Councilor Lashunda Scales asked about shortening the deal. Other leaders echoed her sentiment, as the financial state of the city could change. Some considered a yearly renewal might be more appropriate.
Zoom representatives present at the meeting were not available for comment. Alabama13.com
[Editor's Note: Did one certain family who has interests in nearby Talladega Speedway grease the pockets of the Councilors who voted no? Watch the video - does it appear the Mayor was paid off? ]