Heitzler San Antonio IRL race close to deal

UPDATE #6 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If Champ Car and the IRL are on the verge of a merger, why is there an impending deal to have an IRL race in San Antonio? Wouldn't everything be on hold till the existing venues are sorted out? Bradford Dunlop, Toronto Ontario

Dear Bradford, One would think so, especially given that Champ Car and the IRL each already have a race in Texas (Ft. Worth oval and Houston Street Circuit). If the IRL signs a deal with San Antonio (a third race in Texas) that would indicate one of two things – there won't be a merger, or the Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) event in Ft. Worth will be dropped because the track is simply too dangerous for open wheel cars. In the past year we have seen some tension between the IRL and TMS President Eddie Gossage, which have resulted in rumors that the IRL's future at TMS is uncertain. Mark C.

03/15/06 Professional Indy Car racing could be just weeks away from becoming a reality in San Antonio, bringing in close to 200,000 tourists, News 4 WOAI learned Tuesday. If the deal between the Indy Racing League and a local real estate developer goes through, the Alamodome would be the center of a giant street race track, but some are not quite ready to give the plan the green light.

A spokesman for real estate developers, HollyHills Group said Tuesday, the company is less than two weeks from closing a deal with the IRL to bring the grand prix to San Antonio. Under the deal, the race would start next year, and San Antonio would host the race for the following several years.

“There will be stuff for everyone to enjoy," HollyHills spokesman T.J. Connolly said. “It's really a week-long festival built around racing, but has stuff for men and women and kids alike." More at woai.com

02/23/06 Officials from HollyHills Development and the Indy Racing League expressed optimism Wednesday that a deal for the rights to promote a grand prix race in downtown San Antonio is close. As the event's promoter, HollyHills would provide the design and construction of the racecourse, publicity, tickets and marketing and the recruitment of additional sponsors.

An IRL spokesman said the sanctioning fee charged HollyHills could be as high as $2 million. "Discussions on the San Antonio project are ongoing, and we are very optimistic," the IRL's John Griffin said. Once a deal is reached, HollyHills can begin seeking approval for the open-wheel street race from the City Council.

The IRL's IndyCar Series has 14 races this year, the fewest since 2001, but the circuit hopes to add at least two in 2007. "We still need to find out what (HollyHills) will need from the city, which is another way of saying, 'What's it going to cost us?'" City Councilman Kevin Wolff said. "We need to see the numbers for revenue generation as opposed to the expense to the city."

A HollyHills official declined to estimate how much the city would be required to spend for a big-league motor race in 2007. "I will say the return for the city economically would make the cost minimal," said Joe Heitzler, president and CEO of the California-based company.

Heitzler said he plans to meet with city officials in March to discuss logistical issues, including the use of the Alamodome to serve as the infield for the course. "We have agreed on every tenant of the sanctioning agreement (with the IRL) and are just waiting to have an additional meeting with the city to make sure all the things we are agreeing to are things the city will comply with and work together with us on," Heitzler said.

City officials are cautious about getting back into the race business after the past San Antonio Grand Prix, which was a major part of Labor Day weekend festivities from 1987 through 1990. The event's annual average loss was $300,000, with the 1990 race alone losing $600,000.

The event's operator, the Alamo Grand Prix Association, suspended operations in 1991 while owing the city more than $208,000 for services associated with the 1989 and 1990 races. Those services included police security, street closures and the use of city parking garages and Convention Center facilities.

"My recollection is we never recovered that amount," Deputy city attorney Veronica Zertuche said. Wolff said city officials are expected to accompany Heitzler to St. Petersburg, Fla., to attend the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 2. MySanAntonio.com

01/28/06 Despite speculation to the contrary, the IRL will return to Japan to race in 2007, according to league president Brian Barnhart, who added the IndyCar Series will have more than 15 races that year. There are only 14 races in 2006, the fewest since 2001. A street race in San Antonio is considered the frontrunner for a new IRL event. Indy Star

10/28/05 Earlier in the year, Heitzler announced in San Antonio that an A1GP race was pretty much a done deal with the City. Never happened, the City officials were livid we hear.

The NFL (Tagliabue) has been on record in San Antonio that the NFL will not put a team permanently in San Antonio. The Saints will either remain in New Orleans or move to Los Angeles. At most, the Saints may play a few more games there next year out of necessity.

The Alamo Dome was built with the "if we build it they will come" approach for the NFL. Never happened. Now Heitzler and Holly Hills is proposing the same thing but much larger; NFL, MLB and a Grand Prix Circuit.

We just don't see this race happening.

10/28/05 It looks like the IRL may unwittingly be getting in bed with a businessman with a record who served time. HollyHills owners Daniel and Marlene Bailey landed in San Antonio about two years ago. Lately they've been scooping up land and announcing extravagant plans for many of their sites in South Bexar County and East San Antonio. HollyHills also manages The Golf Club of Texas at Briggs Ranch, an exclusive golf course.

Daniel Bailey, 52, pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud in 1987 in relation to a failed mortgage investment company. He got a 31-month sentence, but resumed his real estate career after leaving a minimum-security prison in 1991.

However, that may inspire Tony George to do business with him as he seems to have a soft spot for men who have served time, having hired former convict Larry Curry to lead his Vision IRL team.

It should also be noted that the IRL is San Antonio's 2nd choice. They preferred an A1GP race (per this article) but did not get one.

10/27/05 San Antonio, Texas city and county leaders met Thursday with officials of the Indy Racing League and an investment group to discuss the possibility of Grand Prix racing returning to San Antonio. Although details are still being worked out, an official announcement may be made in the next 30 to 60 days A Grand Prix-style race was last held in the Alamo City in the early 1990s.

"We had a great meeting this morning about some exciting possibilities for San Antonio," said Tony George, of IRL Racing. "We think that the people who have sort of been putting the thought behind this event here have done a very good job, and create at least a very interesting scenario that we believe could work. And we would be very interested in being a part of. "

But the bigger news is that the race may rev up plans to build a huge professional sports complex that would include a Grand Prix-style IRL track and a professional football and professional baseball stadium, a local spokesman said.

The group Holly Hills Investors is considering purchasing a large amount of land near the SBC Center that would house the complex, the spokesman said. "I've been in a lot of cities in my executive positions, especially in racing, and I have yet to see anyone equal the hospitality this city has," said Joe Heitzler, of Holly Hills Investors. KSAT.com [Editor's Note: Yet another feeble attempt by the IRL to undermine Champ Car by putting on an event similar to Champ Car's announced event in Houston, Texas. Of course Houston dwarfs San Antonio in size. The IRL has a documented history of trying to undermine Champ Car by copying them and each time they have failed.]

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