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Last year for Edmonton IndyCar race?
This summer’s Indy car race is expected to shave at least $500,000 from its 2009 deficit, but commitments to the event should ensure the loss is even lower, sources say.

While the race last year rang up $3.9 million in red ink, more than twice what was projected, the shortfall is likely to be no more than $3.4 million when the cars run next July, sources say.

Northlands officials Wednesday presented a closed-door update for city council on the July 23-25 event.

Although spokesman Brian Leadbetter said later he couldn’t comment on specific figures, he confirmed they plan to cut spending further after reducing the budget by $3 million in 2009.

This includes eliminating the free headline show, performed last year by singer Sam Roberts, and having two entrances rather than three or four. zzzz

“The new site entertainment will not require stages. It allows us to be more efficient and identify opportunities for cost reductions.”

Northlands wants increase the focus on entertainment related to motor sports, such as concessions, souvenirs and more interactive displays, Leadbetter said.

The organization is also rearranging the site so it won’t be as spread out, he said.

However, the event is unlikely to make money, he said.

With “$4.2 million in upfront costs, this is a very challenging business model for Northlands to proceed with. It is difficult to make this profitable,” Leadbetter said.

“We’re committed to reducing expenses further in 2010 … That will be a significant exercise for us this year, while looking for new revenue opportunities while we can.”

But Mayor Stephen Mandel hopes the situation improves with help from such new organizations as the volunteer Go Indy business group.

“I think if we work hard, and I’m sticking my neck out a bit here, and get corporate support, we can come close to breaking even.”

New ideas considered include a kickoff family day in which parents and children could get a deal on tickets and food, or letting people pay to drive their cars on the track, Mandel said.

Go Indy chairman Richard Wong said his 16-member group, representing hospitality, engineering, finance and other industries, wants to promote the race more widely as well as boost ticket sales, hospitality suites and sponsorship.

They’re also working with another new group, Race Week Edmonton, that’s developing community events linked to the Indy such as a soap box derby, a bike race and a show-and-shine car display, he said.

“If you go to an NFL game or a CFL game or a college game, there’s as much activity outside as inside.”

Edmonton’s three-year contract with the Indy Racing League expires this year.

Councillors are expected to decide this spring whether to renew this deal, estimated by its backers to have an annual local economic impact of $80 million.

Coun. Kim Krushell said the finances must improve before she’ll support such an extension.

“A lot of work needs to be done to show that we won’t continue to lose money. Otherwise, I don’t see it continuing,” she said.

“It’s a real call-out to the business community and citizens, that if you want to keep this event out there, buy tickets. Edmonton Journal

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