Edmonton council must get on track

Will Power and his Team Penske teammates celebrate after Power won the Honda Indy Toronto Sunday....

Will Power and his Team Penske teammates celebrate after Power won the Honda Indy Toronto Sunday. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:58 AM ET

One can only hope members of Edmonton city council were watching the Honda Indy Toronto on ABC TV Sunday.

The amount of time the network spent showing what the TV people call “beauty shots” of Toronto was simply staggering.

It was like a video postcard of the place with a bunch of car crashes and a little auto racing (very little) thrown in.

Hopefully, if there was any danger of council not making it official and turning the Honda Indy Edmonton over to Montreal’s Octane Group with a ‘Yes’ vote to Go Indy for three more years at the airport track, watching that telecast would illustrate what Mayor Stephen Mandel has been trying to get through to them all year.

Maybe Edmonton’s “beauty shots” aren’t quite as breathtaking as Toronto’s lakefront and skyline. But showing the world how easy on the eyes Edmonton is in the summer compared to the winter, especially with the 2017 World’s Fair bid in the works, has very real value.

While apparently most of the talk with the race teams at Toronto this week was the Edmonton decision being an essentially agreed-to proposal requiring rubber stamping, city council makes the final decision Wednesday when they deal with it on the agenda at 9:30 a.m.

Losing $9.2 million

First, before Octane, however, will be a presentation from Northlands on where this year’s race sits after losing $9.2 million on the last two editions.

Council will be told that on the sponsorship side, thanks in part to the work done by the Go Indy local business group and Honda taking over from Rexall as title sponsor, this year’s event has exceeded last year’s total and also exceeded this year’s higher budget for sponsorship.

They’ll also be told that going into race week, ticket sales are down 20% mostly because of the dithering and dathering of city council, which resulted in nobody knowing until Wednesday of race week if they’d be supporting an event that would be here next year or not.

OK, the Northlands presenters probably won’t have the guts to tell council that this year they’re more to blame for any deficit than anybody. But it’s the truth.

When that’s done, the proposal from the Canadian Grand Prix promoters to take the event over for the next three years will be dealt with (before council moves on to dealing with Oilers owner Daryl Katz and the downtown arena project in the afternoon).

Assuming the Octane Group gets the green flag and some guaranteed green in support, that will look after 2012, 2013 and 2014 at the downtown airport track.

But the next city council, which will be elected in the fall, better consider getting creative in finding a corner of the airport to keep this race going far into the future, with permanent stands to drastically reduce the costs, because it’s the perfect place with the Edmonton skyline in the background and just a great track, unlike Toronto, for the drivers to race.

Look terrific

The bottom line is that the race crowd may be down slightly from the estimated 58,000 who watched last year because of city council themselves — but it’ll still be bigger than Toronto’s crowd and will look terrific on TV.

And that’s where Edmonton wins the comparison to Toronto.

The Canadian National Exhibition grounds site is a pig of a place for a race.

With narrow canyons of race track between temporary concrete barriers, fans can’t see more than a few seconds of action at any point and the TV cameras manage to miss a lot of it, too. It limits the amount of actual racing involved and the amount of race track you can see to a single-digit percentage, in most places.

In Edmonton, you can sit in the stands and see the entire race track and it televises very well.

You need race cars in front of stands full of fans. Toronto doesn’t have that.

What Toronto does have, however, is a demolition-derby feel to it on many a year and this was certainly one of them.

Fans like crashes. And in Toronto you’re going to see a lot of them.

OK, you’re not going to see them. But they’re out there. Somewhere.

At least in Edmonton, you can see them. And in Edmonton, it doesn’t take long to clean up the carnage. While apparently the fans in Toronto cheered the six yellow flags and all the “action”, 21 laps under caution at dramatically reduced speeds in an 85-lap race translates to almost half the time of the telecast of not racing.

Great for TV going to the beauty shots. But ...

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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