Honda Indy revving up 1

Honda Indy Toronto is more than just race cars burning rubber — it’s a weekend that revs up the economy.

Workers for the IndyCar Series race were beginning to set the track Wednesday, gearing up for the 25th anniversary of the event which runs July 8-10 at Exhibition Place.

Indy Toronto officials say the event pumps more than $50 million into the local economy through ticket sales, job creation and race-related tourism.

“Then you add in the additional television exposure for two hours around the world to 200 countries in a very positive promotion for the city and province, to buy that kind of advertising is absolutely astronomical," said Honda Indy Toronto vice-president Charlie Johnstone. “It’s been a steady economic boost over 25 years."

But while attendance was up last year, the event which draws up to 150,000 people has seen some turbulence.

In 2008, the race was cancelled after the unification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League. In 2009 — the first year back from the blackout — the race had a poor attendance.

The federal government lends a hand by investing $772,000 to the Indy through its Southern Ontario Development Program, specifically for track enhancement projects.

“The race track at Exhibition Place has hosted some of the most exciting racing in the world," Johnstone said. “A year ago, we announced an important investment in the infrastructure of our temporary street course. Today, we are pleased to show some of the most important changes and improvements as our team lays the new block and fence."

John Kiru, the executive director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, said the Indy has always been one of those “significant events" that give his membership a big boost.

“We were very keen for city council and Tourism Toronto to make sure the Indy came back after it left that year because we do realize the impact — the most obvious being in the hotels," he said. “Rooms were significantly increased during that time and the spillover does have benefits to the local neighborhoods where these events take place." Toronto Sun

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