Indy promotion in motion

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:22 AM ET

It’ll be a fast forward to the future for the Honda Indy Edmonton.

“You can feel the fans love their event at the site but there’s a bit of work to do with the city,” said Francois Dumontier, head of the Octane Racing Group which was introduced as the new promoter of the event prior to the race Sunday.

“There is nothing,” he said of the lack of any visible indication there is a big event in Edmonton until you get to the venue.

Dumontier promised fans coming to the race next year will find a feel for the race when they land at the airport, see all sorts of indications that there’s a big event in town as they drive through town, walk around downtown or head out to the track.

And they’ll find a much bigger party, too.

That’s a priority.

Decorating the city with banners and signs, etc., is close to the top of their ‘To Do’ list.

“We didn’t see anything,” he said. “If we’re going to succeed at doing this, we have to create that here.”

As has been indicated in the Edmonton Sun since the city council vote Wednesday, the deals are done — subject only to signatures likely sometime within the next two weeks when the lawyers get them written, said Dumontier.

The deal is done with the City of Edmonton to take over as promoter, with a three-year sponsorship agreement starting at a fixed rate of $1.5 million for the first year instead of the $5.3, $3.9 and likely $2 to $3 million they lost underwriting Northlands the past three years.

And the deal is done with the Indy Racing League to extend the sanctioning agreement through 2014, said IRL head Terry Angstadt.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we had both those agreements,” said Dumontier.

He said the only hiccup with the city wasn’t over the vote taken by city council Wednesday or on further negotiations with the sponsoring agreement “but an issue mainly about the airport track.”

Angstadt said he believed Octane will take “a great event to a very new level.”

Dumontier said they would get at that in very short order by opening a permanent office and installing a permanent team, including Tom Doerksen, who inspired bringing the event to Edmonton for the first ChampCar race and played a big role in facilitating the marriages.

“We believe in a year-long approach and being part of the community 365 days a year and being close to the business concerns and the fans.”

He said that office will be open in September, and ticket sales for next year’s race will be on sale “as soon as possible.”

He also said he’s “relatively confident” the race would continue with Honda title sponsorship.

And he said the idea of being partners with people like the City of Edmonton and reaching agreements with government tourism agencies is to deliver fans from out of town.

“It’s important to bring people in from outside, to show what the city has got. We do it for Montreal. We’ll do it for Edmonton.

“Our only business is auto racing and we are passionate about our business. It is our intention to bring fans from Vancouver to Winnipeg, from Calgary and Saskatoon and why not throughout the Western U.S.A.

“We know the enthusiasm is here. Let’s fire it up.”

He said one of the first orders of business is to take it from being more than an auto race.

“It has to be a happening,” he said. “Crescent Street in Montreal, for example, is a great success. We’re going to try to bring what we do to create those scenes in Montreal to the event here. It’s not a three-day weekend. It’s a five-day weekend.”

Dumontier said his team of six here this weekend, knew how dramatically they could change the event from the moment they landed until they drove to their hotels and out to the track.

“We went around a lot,” he said. “We can see it’s a great event.

“We could also see a lot of potential. We saw things that amazed us, a lot of areas where we could improve and make money.

“It seemed like every time I met somebody they had a suggestion for me,” he said of the room for improvement.

The bottom line is he gave every reason to believe Octane is going to refuel the Edmonton engine for this event almost immediately.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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