Edmonton Indy in limbo

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:33 PM ET

EDMONTON - How would you like to be the promoter of this event?

First, city council instructs you to slash the budget big time. So you do.

City council also insists you increase the sponsorship. Which you do, too.

But now it's six weeks before the Honda Edmonton Indy and there's still no decision by city council on the future of the race. As a result, people are still holding back to buy tickets in the town which sold out the Grey Cup six days after they were made available to the general public to create a national wow.

So why the delay?

What's the hold up?

Everybody involved, including other levels of government, local businesses and business leaders, have done their part to put the IndyCar race — which is to Western Canada essentially what the Formula 1 race is to Montreal — on more solid footing financially.

But six weeks before the race, despite having done essentially everything that city council asked be done after they had made such a significant investment in the event to get to this point, the silence from them is deafening.

And why?

By all indications the local (and occasionally loco if you see that they're considering building a statue to the homeless) can't decide how an extension of the deal with the Indy Racing League will affect them in the coming election. They appear to be dithering in a damned-if-they-do, dammed-if-they-don't world of worry about an event which does so much for the city in terms of international image and economic impact when just one call to a city council member in Montreal, where they lost their race for a year last year, should settle it.

Whatever, six weeks before the race, Northlands held a promotional press conference Monday, bringing in Canadian IndyCar drivers Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani and what did they get out of it?

Nothing but questions for all concerned dealing with the future of the race which included the revelation that there are private promoters interested in replacing Northlands for the race next year if the city re-ups with the IRL. This despite the fact being promoter right now is no fun at all.

“Two, possibly three parties, have expressed interest. If the decision is to go with a third party and there is a transition period we're prepared to discuss that,” said Northlands president Ken Knowles.

“We'll do what's in the best interests of the city.”

He did, however, not sound like the head of an outfit that wanted to go away now that they're just finding their way on the learning curve on the business side of all this.

Talking about the drivers, the teams, the cars, the series and the actual July 23-25 race itself or even talking about picking the appropriate promoter just doesn't cut it until the future is settled at the downtown airport track location.

A lot of positives have happened around this race, including a lengthy list of various levels of sponsorship announced yesterday.

“We've had excellent response from businesses both locally and nationally, all of whom want to make sure the Honda Edmonton Indy is a success,” said Knowles.

“They've really stepped up to support this event,” he said announcing an updated list under title sponsor Honda, which is on the record of being prepared to participate long term.

But again there's only one story.

“We've talked to the IRL. The city has talked to the IRL. They know the mayor is the biggest supporter the event has and that he understands how huge it is for the city. They're still prepared to sit back a little bit,” said the Northlands president.

“But I know that the IRL is getting anxious. They've shown a lot of patience,” Knowles added of so far waiting for word on a future deal and saving the perfect place on the schedule for the city. The schedule for the following year is usually announced around the Edmonton race.

“They love coming to Edmonton. The drivers love racing here. IRL head Terry Angstadt told me last year that outside of the Indy 500, with the way Edmonton embraces the event and the way it is organized, it's second to none in the series.”

So wave the green flag, already.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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