Baltimore inks new contract with Downforce Racing for 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix
The Baltimore Grand Prix was thought to be an event that would be confined to the racing history books. However the Baltimore Sun reports that the new contract with Downforce Racing shows a different future for racing in Baltimore.
The five-year deal with Downforce headed by racing organizer and contractor Dale Dillon seems to be promising. Dillon, who grew up in Indianapolis, has experience putting on other large racing events. Additionally Dillon is largely credited with making the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix a reality and not a disaster.
It was not surprising that Dillon was chosen as he seemed to the only legitimate candidate to organize the race for next year. Dillon's company, Dillon Construction, has been involved in building lots of buildings. The company recently completed a factory that builds chassis for IndyCars. As well Dillon as been a race since he was young and has even participated in open wheel racing himself.
Joining him will also be two former Constellation Energy executives. One of them, Felix Dawson, invested $300,000 weeks before the 2011 race. Also Daniel Reck who worked with Dawson at Constellation. He was also a vice president at the energy company Enron, which went bankrupt back in 2001 in a spectacular fashion. (I mean really? Who thinks it's a good idea to have this guy onboard?)
The Baltimore Racing Development, the original company that put on the Grand Prix, ran into financial issues. They were not able to payback millions of dollars owed to vendors, Baltimore city, and the state of Maryland. (Around $12 million is owed in total and $1.5 million is owed to the city and state.) Most are not expected to get any money back. The company went belly-up and the original five year contract with the Baltimore Racing Development was axed, leaving a vacancy for another company to step in.
It is important to note that this new deal doesn't require Downforce Racing to help pay off any of the debt owed by Baltimore Racing Development. There are no stipulations for the new developer to even attempt to help those vendors recoup any cash. This puts into question Downforce's ability to work with vendors they may not be able to pay in full, before the race.
The city claims neither Dawson or Dillon were officials of the Baltimore Racing Development. They may have not been officially “officials” but each certainly had a hand in the original race.
"It's in the best interest for our local economy, and the best interest of the city, that we move forward, but not move forward with any risk to taxpayers," said Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Mayor of Baltimore.
Many feel that the Baltimore Grand Prix will be a economic boost for Baltimore and is an overall positive event for the city to hold again. However, many are opposed to still holding the race in Baltimore.
Baltimore's City Council President, Bernard C. "Jack" Young, has openly announced that he is opposed to holding the race again. He and others feel the money could be better spent on city improvements, youth programs, and other projects to improve Baltimore.
The contract might have been inked but it must be voted on by the city's Board of Estimates, which will be next week. Rawlings-Blake controls 3 out of the 5 votes on the Board though, so it is likely the new contract will not be approved.
Rawlings-Blake believes having the race again will allow vendors to recoup losses from the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix. However, that is only a possibility if the new company works with the original vendors and if they pay in full and on time. More than likely this time around they will want to be paid upfront.
The city is going to use a new "lockbox" provision. This essentially means each ticket sold will add charges for Baltimore city's taxes, and fees for city services. Also some money will got to neighborhoods that surround the track. All these fees and money will be placed in a special account controlled by a city-appointed trustee. This is so Downforce Racing has no control over the money and to make sure the city and state get paid.
Hurdles and issues still remain to bring racing back to Baltimore. This news signals Charm City just might stay a racing hub for a long time. Who knows what will will happen in the future though.