Series roars into Baltimore in 2011


By Dave Lewandowski

BALTIMORE — Crab cakes, the Orioles, Francis Scott Key are all synonymous with Baltimore. Starting in 2011, so will an IZOD IndyCar Series race.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined Baltimore Racing Development and Indy Racing League officials in formally announcing that the Baltimore Grand Prix will be part of the series’ schedule for at least five years beginning in 2011.

The inaugural event is scheduled for August 5-7 on a 2.4-mile temporary street circuit that incorporates the scenic Inner Harbor area and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The announcement follows the unanimous approval of a Baltimore City Council Resolution and a vote of the Maryland Stadium Authority to formally support Baltimore Racing Development’s efforts to pursue an IZOD IndyCar Series race.

“In these times, “ Gov. O’Malley said in opening remarks at the Baltimore Convention Center, “You don’t win a race by reversing and going backward. You win a race by putting it in drive and giving it full throttle. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us and we’re so glad we have a mayor who has the vision for bringing people together to celebrate exciting sporting events.”

The Baltimore Grand Prix is projected to attract more than 100,000 people to downtown and have an estimated economic impact of $70 million, based on visitor spending on hotel nights, meals, tickets and other purchases, plus direct tax revenue to the city. Tickets and hospitality suites will go on sale this fall.

“This is a historic day for Baltimore and the State of Maryland, as well as entire East Coast Region,” said Jay Davidson, CEO of the Baltimore Grand Prix and Baltimore Racing Development. “When we began our pursuit of this race over two years ago, we had a number of major steps to accomplish and are so thankful to the state, city and the community for embracing our efforts.

“This three-day festival of speed will not just include car racing, but will feature family-friendly activities, offer great entertainment and much, much more.”

The Maryland Stadium Authority approved more than $1 million in changes to Russell Street near Oriole Park at Camden Yards to accommodate a pit area adjacent to the ballpark. The city is dedicating $5 million in federal road maintenance funds to the project and is requesting a $2.75 million state loan for related improvements.

“In August 2011, our city will be the home for one of the most exciting sporting events in the world,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake, who was “blown away”  wen she attended the Indianapolis 500 on May 30.

“I want to thank the governor, BRD and IndyCar officials for your role in making this race a reality for Baltimore. In addition to filling city hotel rooms and restaurants, this street race will change the way the world sees Baltimore as a result of global media exposure to millions of Indy Racing League fans who attend similar events in, Sao Paulo, Long Beach and St. Petersburg.”

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr.; Chuck Kosich of MJ Promotions, which owned and operated both the Houston Grand Prix and the Cleveland Grand Prix; and Martyn Thake, who has designed racetracks on three continents, have been consultants on various aspects of the circuit and event.

“I don’t believe I have seen a greater degree of analysis and due diligence done from any group,” said Terry Angstadt, the Indy Racing League’s commercial division president, in remarks at the news conference. “The Baltimore Racing Development people really have done their homework, have really secured the broad-based support necessary to make an event of our size successful.”

Aside from the May 29 Indianapolis 500 and the Baltimore race, the remainder of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule will be announced in July.



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