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DATE News (chronologically)
07/28/08
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Toronto to replace Nashville on IndyCar schedule  UPDATE #10 It was confirmed on Monday that after eight years the IRL will not return to Nashville for next season, and it's expected Toronto will be given the nod when the new schedule is released as early as this week.

"Regrettably, the IRL has chosen to structure their sanction fees at such a level that we had no choice but to re-evaluate whether they fit into our plan," Cliff Hawks, vice-president and general manager of Nashville Superspeedway said in a statement. "Regardless, we believe the IRL had no further interest in the Middle Tennessee market."

07/28/08 The Indy Racing League and Nashville Superspeedway have failed to negotiate an agreement for a 2009 race. Track officials announced today that the IRL won’t be coming back to the track. The IndyCar Series had raced here the past eight years, including July 12 when Scott Dixon won a rain-shortened race.

07/27/08 Toronto will be back in IndyCar racing next year.  Sun Media has learned that Toronto will be the only former Champ Car Series race to be added to the merged series schedule joining Edmonton, Long Beach and Surfers Paradise in Australia in the 2009 season series.

It is expected the Toronto race will replace the IRL oval race in Nashville in early July.

Michael Andretti, who won the Toronto race a staggering seven times in his career, previously won the rights with Andretti-Green Racing to promote the event.

The series, Sun Media has learned, will feature 10 ovals and eight road race events with 12 Indy Racing League tracks and four Champ Car tracks.

The Long Beach race ran as the last Champ Car race earlier this year, featuring the old cars and teams.  Toronto Sun

05/03/08 AutoRacing1.com was able to obtain a copy of the proposed agreement between Champ Car and the City of Toronto for the Toronto Champ Car race to continue for another 3 years.  This should give you some insight into what is on the table between Andretti Green and the city for the race to become an Indy Car race.

05/01/08 The deadline for Andretti-Green Racing to pick up its option to buy the Toronto Grand Prix passed yesterday without a deal in place.

That's the bad news. The good news is that talks are continuing. It is now in the hands of politicians whether the Toronto Indy/GPT will roar around the temporary street course at Exhibition Place in 2009. The federal, provincial and municipal governments have all given "vocal" support of the race that was the model for similar races in Canada -- Edmonton Grand Prix and the late Molson Indy Vancouver -- and around the world.

It can't be lost on Ontario politics that while they dither over finding about $2 million in concessions for Michael Andretti and his partners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, Alberta already has pledged its support for the Edmonton race that will be the lone Canadian stop this year for the united Indy Racing League. No one is disputing the economic footprint the race leaves in southern Ontario. Two studies -- one by the provincial government, the other by Tourism Toronto -- show that the benefits of holding the race exceed $50 million a year.

Even the most math-challenged folks among those in charge of our tax dollars have to sit up and pay attention when the return on a $2 million investment is $50 million. At a time when too many politicians are crying crocodile tears about joblessness and dismal economic growth, here is an opportunity for them to trumpet an industry that actually creates jobs -- 550 of them in Toronto 2007 and as many or more in Edmonton in the same period.

According to the pair of studies on the impact the Toronto race has on the community, the benefits go far beyond the immediate influx of cash for area restaurants, hotels and other service industries.

With a television contract from ESPN/ABC in its pocket, the IRL can bring a worldwide audience to the door for both Toronto and Edmonton. That kind of exposure doesn't show up on the balance sheets, but as sure as Warren Buffet makes money it shows up in dividends down the road when those in that audience are making up their minds for a summer, or winter vacation. The message to AGR from the city, the province and the feds must be that support of the race is unwavering. It's time to answer the bell. Source

04/30/08 You might find this document and its amendment interesting.  The city of Toronto has never lost money on the race deal - in fact they've made out pretty well as you can see here.  We also seem to recall there has been another cost for closing half of Lakeshore Blvd and that the cost related to that aspect was another $250,000 or so.  Bottom line - they can help the race promoter, at least for a few years.

04/30/08 The city of Toronto has agreed to do its share in bringing Indy car racing back to Toronto.

Now it's up to the other stakeholders involved to ensure that the wail of race car engines is heard again at Exhibition Place in the summer of 2009.

A partnership including retired driver Michael Andretti is seeking to purchase the rights to the Toronto race.

However, the group is said to be concerned about a $2 million loss the event is said to have suffered in each of the past three or four years.

At the crux of the negotiations is ways for the other stakeholders in the race to provide means to eliminate or at least substantially reduce this deficit.

The city has offered cash and services.

Toronto Councilor Joe Pantalone, who chairs the board of governors of Exhibition Place, said that the Andretti group has been told what the city is willing to offer.

"A letter from Exhibition Place has gone out to them indicating what we can do reasonably,'' Pantalone told Star city hall reporter John Spears.

He wouldn't provide any figures on the value of cash and services the city has offered. However, an informed source said the city had been asked to contribute $500,000.

``The Andretti Green group is basically trying to figure out what do they need in order to reduce their costs and make a profit,'' the source said.

``They are prepared to put up some money themselves at the beginning to cover the loss, but they also expect the broader Toronto/Ontario community to chip in to reduce the loss to make the thing viable – which is a reasonable proposition.''

Toronto was left without a race for the first time since 1986 when Champ Car was absorbed by the Indy Racing League earlier this year, ending a bitter 12-year separation. Since the IRL's 2008 schedule had already been set a Toronto race could not be included.

However, there was talk from the start that the IRL wanted to be in Toronto in 2009.

That's when Andretti Green decided to make a bid to buy the rights from former Champ Car co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe, who also owned Grand Prix of Toronto.

Charlie Johnstone, GPT president and CEO, refused to confirm any of the amounts involved in the negotiations, including the reported $2 million annual loss.

"We would not disclose the terms of our agreement with any of our private or public partners," said Johnstone, who agreed that an investment by any of the partners did not necessarily mean a cash outlay.

"It's not just cash one way," he said. "It could be no expenses for the other side."  More at the Toronto Star

04/29/08 The deal to have Michael Andretti purchase the Grand Prix of Toronto is in jeopardy unless governments -- municipal, provincial and federal -- can come up with a $2-million aid package to make the event viable again, numerous sources have said.

Now, with less than 48-hours left on Andretti-Green Racing's first right of refusal agreement to buy the race from its former Champ Car World Series owners, the future appears murky at best.

The race was put on hold this year after Indy Racing League owner Tony George negotiated a unification with Champ Car bosses that left the Toronto race off its 2008 calendar, but seven-time Toronto winner Andretti has said he has assurances the race could be back on track in 2009 under new ownership.

Andretti, with partners Kim Green and Dennis Savoree, has spent the past six weeks going over the books of the Exhibition Place race that's been front and centre in Toronto's summer sports picture for more than two decades.

According to a source close to the group, what they saw wasn't pretty.

"When AGR did their due diligence they discovered the race was running a deficit of about $2 million a year," the source said. "AGR has told Toronto officials they would want that deficit covered before agreeing to take over the event."

A spokesperson for AGR said yesterday the group is still going over the particulars and couldn't comment on how close a deal is.

At risk is more than the estimated $50 million the race injects into the local economy, so the politicians charged with coming to grips with AGR's demands are paying close attention.

"It would be a huge hit (for the city) to lose the race at a time when the economy is already shaky," another source said.

GPT boss Charlie Johnstone, however, said speculation that AGR is seeking a $2-million bailout is simply wrong.

"That's just not accurate," he said yesterday. "While it's true the race has not been a money maker for some time, our partners see it as a viable business entity, especially with open wheel racing now being united." zzzz

Johnstone said governments at all three levels have been involved with the Toronto race almost from its inception and would continue to be involved in the future.

"We're trying to develop partnerships with all of the above to show them we have a business model that works. Yes, there are certainly challenges to be faced in promoting an event like Toronto but AGR is the kind of company that appears ready to take on those challenges.

"I believe -- as do many experts -- that Toronto can be a profitable race." Toronto Sun

04/06/08 IRL CEO Tony George said Andretti Green Promotions and the city of Toronto "need to do what they feel like they need to do in order to position themselves to … talk about being on the schedule," for 2009. They are not sure bets to be included on future schedules.

AGP, which promotes the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, another former Champ Car venue, signed a letter of intent to purchase the assets of the Toronto Grand Prix, which went dormant with Champ Car's demise. The letter expires April 31. AGP would continue to explore the deal with assurances from the IRL that the event could be added to a future schedule. No such assurances are forthcoming.

"There are no guarantees they'll be on there, but we'll take all that into account. I guess we'll see," he said. "If they've got as much enthusiasm for that event as St. Pete does, that will bode well for them, but I don't know that it gives them any kind of inside." TampaBay.com

03/18/08 Of concern to Andretti Green Promotions would be the potential for title sponsorship for the Toronto race and a suitable location for the event. Sources have told thestar.com it’s possible the race could be moved to a location at Downsview Park if agreement to continue the race at the CNE is not reached with the city of Toronto.

The Toronto Grand Prix, nee the Molson Indy, has been an annual event through the streets of the CNE since 1986.

Following the merger of the two Indy-type racing series in recent weeks (Champ Car and the IRL), it was announced that Toronto would not be included in the 2008 schedule, primarily because the IRL, which will now run Indy car racing in North America, has a race scheduled at Watkins Glen, N.Y., on July 6, the same day the Toronto race was scheduled by Champ Car.

Any 2008 conflict would be eliminated for 2009, when the two series will be fully integrated. Toronto Star

03/18/08 Andretti Green Promotions, LLC announced today it has signed a letter of intent to purchase the assets of the Grand Prix Association of Toronto Corp.

The letter, which is dated March 14, 2008, runs through a period ending on April 30, 2008. Andretti Green Promotions, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Andretti Green Racing, will begin a process of due diligence immediately to determine if it will proceed to the next step, which would be to enter into a purchase agreement with the Grand Prix Association of Toronto.

The terms of the letter of intent will not be disclosed.

As a driver Andretti won Toronto a record 7 times
Michael Andretti, chairman, Andretti Green Racing:
"Toronto is a place that I have always loved. It's a great racetrack and a great venue. Racing there was always the highlight of my year and it's exciting to think that we're exploring the possibility of owning the event. I was fortunate enough to win there seven times as a driver and all of those wins were special. If we were able to put a deal together to own and operate an event in Toronto, I would certainly count that as another win there, for sure."

Kevin Savoree, president and chief operating officer, Andretti Green Racing;
managing director, Andretti Green Promotions:
"This is an exciting first step in the process. Having the letter of intent in place allows Andretti Green Promotions a chance to look at all the opportunities that exist in Toronto and evaluate its future. There is a great deal of due diligence to complete and a lot of hours in front of us, but we're looking forward to getting started. Toronto has always been one of the true signature events in Indy racing and Mike, Kim and I are looking forward to exploring our options there."

Charlie Johnstone, president and chief executive officer, Grand Prix of Toronto:
"The expressed interest by Andretti Green Promotions to own the Grand Prix of Toronto speaks volumes to the stature this event maintains in open wheel racing in North America.  We look forward to working with Michael, Kim, Kevin and their team over the course of the next several weeks to pull this off."

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