Lack of support may doom Portland race

Lack of support may doom Champ Car race
Andy Giegerich
Business Journal staff writer
A lack of support from city and state officials could spell the end of the popular Champ Car Grand Prix in Portland.

Race boosters, who want the city and state to become the event's title sponsor, say Portland Mayor Tom Potter's reluctance to contribute to the cause could help drive the 22-year-old event from Portland before Champ's current three-year contract expires. The issue arises as business leaders seek ways to appease Champ Car, which stands to lose money from the June 19 race. The Champ Car Business Coalition has received only $225,000 toward its goal of collecting $500,000 from the business community. It has another $75,000 in "informal" commitments.

The coalition wants the city and state to cover the remaining $200,000 and become the title sponsor of the June 19 race. Asked whether Potter would approve a request for $100,000 from an obscure economic development fund, Rochelle Lessner, Potter's policy manager, replied, "Given that we're filling more than a $15 million budget hole, and there are a lot of competing demands for scarce resources, the mayor has determined that this isn't going to be a priority for the use of those funds."

The possibility that the city of Portland won't contribute to the Champ cause won't threaten the race's 2005 status, organizers said. But without that commitment, Karen Whitman, president of the Oregon Sports Authority, believes Champ Car may lose patience with the process. Champ Car reportedly has an out clause if the event loses money, and Whitman believes its leaders may be losing patience with the race.

"They are very attractive to other cities, and there are always out clauses," she said. "If they don't see strong evidence of Portland's interest," Champ could explore other options, she said.

Champ Car President Dick Eidswick didn't return phone calls seeking comment. The public-participation concept mirrors an arrangement used in Long Beach, Calif., where public entities contribute money to a race in exchange for promised economic benefits. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is a bit warmer to the idea than Potter, but is just as noncommittal, said spokeswoman Anna Richter-Taylor. The group said it has several state funding options, including tapping an Oregon tourism fund. More at Portland Business Journal

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