Baltimore Needs To Keep The Grand Prix

By James Williams
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Another Grand Prix of Baltimore is in the books, and this one might well go down as the most successful of three street races held in Charm City. Race fans are just getting know this event and it is very important that both the city of Baltimore and IndyCar executives work the details out for a 2014 event and beyond.

While the race organizers  SRT are still crunching the final numbers they released a statement Monday that said:

“We are very pleased with the results of this year’s Grand Prix of Baltimore. It is clear the event drew strong crowds and delivered an exceptional entertainment experience for those who attended. The feedback we have received from event-goers has been overwhelmingly positive, with many return visitors indicating the 2013 Grand Prix was the best yet.”

The race can’t be held on Labor Day weekend again until at least 2016. Next year the city will host a college football game between Ohio State and Navy at M&T Bank Stadium. Then in 2015 the convention center will be host to the national gathering of the American Legion.

But that means the city must work very closely with both the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Ravens to find a series of dates that can be presented to the IndyCar brass so they can set the schedule. IndyCar normally sets their 2014 schedule in September, however that is the same month as Major League Baseball puts out their schedule.

The IndyCar series deals with much larger cities than Baltimore, like Houston, Detroit, Toronto and Sao Paulo, Brazil, and all of those cities seem to figure out how to make the race work.

There needs to be a concerted effort by the city to make sure the race continues. Unlike the Orioles or Ravens who do bring crowds to town, the race weekend brings far more out of town visitors as well as race fans. These are people who would not come to Baltimore to attend a baseball game or a football game because frankly they likely have their own teams in their own cities along the I-95 corridor.

What they don’t have is a world class IndyCar race, and let’s not forget the very popular American LeMans series that races on Saturday. So the city gets a different group of visitors that come to town and they spend money.

One very good sign was that Mark Miles, CEO of the company that oversees the Izod IndyCar Series, said Sunday in a press gathering after the race that he’s confident the series will return to Baltimore in 2014. But he also made it clear that once the city found a date he wanted them to be able to stick to it.

“It looks like we’ll be able to find a workable date next year,” Miles told the media. “My bigger concern is the next year and the year after that. We really don’t want to be bouncing around from date to date.”

Another issue is that IndyCar would like in the future to end their North America part of the series by Labor Day so that means Baltimore would likely need to find a date in either July or August.

The details require work from the city, the Orioles, the Ravens and of course IndyCar, but I don’t think that any race fan wants to see this race leave the schedule. If it does Baltimore will be out of the race business for a very long time, and that would be a real shame.

After seeing what has been done in Baltimore there are likely other cities  in the mid Atlantic region waiting to see if Baltimore can’t make it work. There is always another city that wants to prove they can do sporting events better than any other city in the world.

For Charm City let’s hope the race stays.

Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award winning, producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc and be part of his Google+ group.

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