Edmonton Indy saved by Honda

TERRY JONES, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 PM ET

If there isn't another press conference, an even bigger one, in early or mid-April, then the announcement made yesterday won't mean sweet tweet.

But there will be that announcement. Guaranteed.

It will be to announce that the Honda Indy Edmonton will be staying here well into the future with City Council approval of the airport venue, backing, more sponsorship deals and an extension of the agreement with the Indy Racing League.

And that's why absolutely, positively, unequivocally, and even undeniably, Honda sponsorship will save the Edmonton Indy.

After striking out with virtually every aspect of involvement in this race, Edmonton Northlands just hit the home run.

And after having to have had CFL-sized balls to keep this summer spectacle on the schedule Mayor Stephen Mandel is about to be proven as a visionary and the admittedly obscene losses under Northlands these past two years is going to be looked back upon as solid seed money in terms of the long-term economic impact and promotion of the city.

This race was dead beyond this year until Honda, sponsors of this weekend's second race in the IndyCar Series in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the other Canadian event, the Honda Toronto Indy, decided to give it what it had never had before – big time, big money, big impact title sponsorship.

When Rexall dropped its sponsorship, the race had virtually no corporate sponsorship, no suite sales, no ticket sales, no buzz, no place to race and no IRL contract past July 23-25.

The moment the next press conference is called, all that should change.

“We're here to ensure the Honda Indy Edmonton remains as the largest motor sports event in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest for this year and beyond,” said Jerry Chenkin, executive vice president of Honda Canada Inc.

“We do not believe in having short-term relationships. Honda doesn't form short-term relationships with anybody. If we didn't believe this was for the long term future, we wouldn't be involved.

“We heard the title sponsorship had become available and we believe we were the only people who could do this,” he said of taking it out of the $400,000 days of West Edmonton Mall, The Brick and Rexall.

“This is all about attendance to the race. We know what we are doing,” he said of not only providing sponsorship approaching seven figures but spending beyond that to promote their involvement and the event here and around the world.

“We're good at this stuff. We're Honda. We can do these things promoting our brand. No other company can do this. We think this is a sound investment which will continue to grow in Edmonton, Alberta and Canada.

“We see huge potential. This is a great opportunity. And we love racing. Racing is at the core of what Honda is all about. It's important for us to support Indy in Edmonton,” added Chenkin of the company which produces all the engines for the cars in the series, sponsors Andretti-Green Racing and the two other events which are Andretti-Green productions.

“It's big time sponsorship,” said Northlands president Ken Knowles.

Mandel says it's more than that.

“This is a great day for Edmonton,” said the mayor.

“This is going to allow us to have this for years to come. I look forward to another (announcement) in the next little while.

“There's every intent that this is going to be long term. It's a sustainable event. We're very close to where we want to be. We know the citizens aren't going to support $3.5 million in losses,” he said and projects future supporting sponsorship announcements and a bottom line everybody can live with.

“More sponsorship is coming. Absolutely this is going to be manageable money wise.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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