MONTREAL — The organization that operates NASCAR races in Montreal is asking the federal and provincial governments for $1 million to help improve the races in the city.
The International Speedway Corporation (ISC) is asking for the money for two years to help provide greater visibility for the Gilles-Villeneuve course among U.S. clients, QMI Agency has learned.
Francois Dumontier, Montreal's NASCAR and Formula 1 promotor, would not confirm the request for funding, but he acknowledged there is a plan to give Montreal better visibility in the racing world.
"We want to do a promotion on the American courses to attract people here," said Dumontier. "ISC is the owner of 12 other courses and holds a hundred races across the United States. This direct promotion can be very efficient."
So why should the governments make a financial contribution to the effort?
"Like all events starting out, there is education to be done in Montreal," said Dumontier. "We want to work closely with local officials."
However, NASCAR draws fewer tourists to Montreal than Formula 1.
"NASCAR is the American middle-class," said Pierre Bellerose, vice-president of Tourisme Montreal. "The F1, that's the international jet-setter."
“For now, it's more visibility than anything else," said Bellerose. "But it's important."
Raymond Bachand, Quebec's minister of finance, said that the 2009 NASCAR Montreal numbers were average for a recession.
"We will look at the results from this year to provide an answer this fall, probably," said Bachand.
He said Quebec might fork over some funding.
"I am never opposed when an event helps develop Quebec and attracts tourism. After that, you have to look at the numbers and be meticulous. We will study this. I will meet the organizers next week."
The last Formula 1 event generated $75 million for the city's economy, as European tourists packed hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Quebec made about $10 million in exchange for $5 million in public funds. In all, the governments earned between $16-17 million in sales taxes. That is without accounting for the 30% cut for ticket sales, which reportedly amounted to $2 million.
"It will be very profitable this year," said Bachand. "It is the number one tourism event in Canada. For merchants, it is the biggest weekend of the year, even for men's clothing. I don't expect that with NASCAR."
Michael Fortier, the lawyer that helped negotiate F1's return to Montreal, echoed Bachand's cautiousness. He said he supports using public funds if "the formula works to the advantage of the taxpayers".
"You have to look at the number of tourists that can be attracted and the economic activity generated," he said. "In the case of F1, there was no doubt. We just had to bring the event back."