Indy bucks rev up Edmonton mayor

RICHARD LIEBRECHT and CLARA HO, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Confident that perennial losses can be cut, the Alberta government has bet $800,000 on the Honda Edmonton Indy.

"I'm not sure it will make a profit, but I know they'll lose a lot less money," said Lindsay Blackett, minister of culture and community spirit.

The funding nearly matches a recent grant from the federal government -- a $1.6 million pool of taxpayer cash to back the race. Of the province's contribution, $300,000 will come from Blackett's ministry, while Travel Alberta will kick in $500,000.

Blackett said Mayor Stephen Mandel earned confidence after promising to personally pilot the race toward profitability.

The Indy got $800,000 from the province two years ago. But the Tory government pulled out after the race lost $5.3 million that year.

City taxpayers covered that 2008 loss, and absorbed 2009's $3.9 million deficit.

Blackett said the race still has value for Edmonton and Alberta.

"It's still a good project for getting attention from North Americans and worldwide," he said.

Mandel welcomed the cash injection with open arms.

"It's a fantastic event which is now getting the kind of support from the various orders of government that it needs to be successful. We're very pleased the province sees the value in this," Mandel said.

"As long as Northlands sticks to the budget they originally presented to us, I think we're in very good shape." Mandel said he had called Lindsay Blackett, minister of culture and community spirit, for help and he came back with support for the event.

"We're part of a franchise that goes to South America, all over the United States, countries around the world.

"I think it's a real marquee event for the city." Coun. Kim Krushell was also pleased with the news, adding it gives the city "some relief." She said council is still waiting for a report back to decide whether the Indy should continue in Edmonton. The city is currently in its last year of the three-year contract with the Indy Racing League to host the event.

"We're interested in keeping the Indy if it's not the taxpayers who have to back it," Krushell said.

The province's funding announcement comes on the heels of the federal government's $821,000 contribution to the July 23-25 Indy as part of their 2010 Marquee Tourism Events program.


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