Squabble kicks Indy off-track

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The Honda Calgary Indy?

That would really cement it. That would complete the effect. That would be Edmonton’s complete confirmation as Alberta’s second city. Or maybe we have that now.

And about the Expo 2017 bid. Good luck with that, Edmonton.

When word of how Edmonton lost its major-league auto race — its signature annual summer spectacle — gets around the world, the fabulously good name this city had earned for itself as a major event host is going to take a serious, long-lasting hit.

And all over a $3 million dollar paving bill?

How does this make any sense?

The City of Edmonton initiated and championed a study which indicated the Honda Indy Edmonton was worth $80 million a year in economic impact, not to mention the promotion of image and goodwill for the city as opposed to an almost-oil sands-sized black eye as an event host.

Eighty million multiplied by three years of the new deal press conferenced back in July, equals $240 million in economic impact plus image and promotion.

After flushing $9 million down the drain by allowing Northlands to muck up the race promotion beyond belief, the City of Edmonton is now sewering the event over a $3-million paving bill that could ensure a successful race far into the future.

Octane Motorsports Events Inc. runs the Canadian Grand Prix on the world-wide Formula 1 circuit, and their story and that of the shocked Indy Car Series itself is going worldwide. And statements out of City Hall Wednesday did little to deny the allegations of dirty dealings in an attempt by the city to relocate the track from one runway to another and stick the promoters with a paving bill.

“Our group entered the process of becoming the new Edmonton Indy promoter in good faith … with enthusiasm and confidence and, until last Friday, had all intentions to promote a spectacular Edmonton Indy for 2011 and many years to come,” said Octane head Francois Dumontier in a statement Wednesday morning.

“We set a deadline for a final answer from the City of Edmonton, concerning the status of the eastern runway and its surrounding grounds at the City Centre Airport where we had been asked late in the summer, to move the event as of 2011.

“Until the last minute, we hoped that the city would agree with our legitimate request to provide us with a site equivalent to the one the previous promoters have worked with, and this without having our group (the tenant) investing in ground works.

“The city’s final decision has made it impossible for us — as professional and experienced motorsports promoters — to offer an event complying with our high quality standards, and be able to satisfy the fans and the sanctioning organizations while maintaining the quality of the spectacle.”

The quote from city manager Lorna Rosen, using a figure of $3.2 million for the paving, was the only thing close to a rebuttal.

“In order to make the race more exciting and to actually have more turns and a better place for the grandstand, Octane wanted to add a significant piece of asphalt,” she said.

“Asphalt is expensive. Plus, they also wanted to expand the pit area which also required more asphalt.”

Her suggestion was that it would have ended up an upgrade on the western runway used for the first six editions of the race.

“I have no hesitation in saying Octane knows their business and knows what it would take to do an exciting race but it also turned out to be costly,” she said.

The response from Octane was quick.

“We never talked about $3.2 million. We said $3 million as an estimation and told Mrs. Rosen that if they can get a better deal, they should try to find out with the plans we submitted.

“They never had an estimate done before last Thursday, Oct. 25. And on the 26th they said they finally had our plans estimated at $3.2 million. Instead they had Phil Sande doing these drawings where the whole track and the pit lane were to be on existing concrete portion,” said Octane spokesman Normand Prieur, who characterized the the drawings as being “insulting.”

“We didn’t want to expand the pit area. We had set a good race course with the existing concrete section and of course a pit area.

“It wasn’t costly. And, again, we didn’t ask to move from one runway to the other. They asked us to move.

“Believe me, our plans were not extravagant.

“Bottom line at the very end, they were not going to the council to get one additional dollar. That’s what she told me.”

Edmonton. City of Champions.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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