Get All The Details Worked Out First

Late last week, officials from Grand Prix Boston met with state and local officials, which included the Mayor of Boston and the Governor of Massachusetts, to try and iron out the necessary details to insure that the IndyCar race planned for next Labor Day weekend will go as planned. I don’t claim to have any knowledge of municipal negotiations, but if I had to guess – I’d say that they will do what is necessary to get the right permits in place and pay the various groups that claim they weren’t involved in the initial planning as they should have been.

My question is – why is this even an issue? Supposedly, this deal was done in May and was even announced to the public. Tickets were to go on sale this month. The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule was released a couple of weeks ago and it was listed there plain as day. There was no asterisk or any hint that it was tentative or tenuous. Of course, by then we had already been hearing that neighborhoods were complaining about the inconvenience of a street race taking place near where they live and that tax-payer dollars were being used to fund it.

Some took issue with me not taking the resident’s side a couple of weeks ago. I’m a race fan and I want the race to take place. Did you really think I would side against it? When the Houston Oilers moved to Nashville in the nineties, I was all for it. Yes, some of my state and local tax dollars were used to bring them here; but the impact they have had on this city is immeasurable and their presence has permanently put Nashville into the stratosphere of top cities, regardless of how bad their on-field product has been for the last several years.

Boston is already a world-class city, but I firmly believe they will benefit economically with this race. But whether the residents are justified in complaining is not the issue here. What is the issue is why these hurdles were not crossed last spring, when this race was supposedly finalized to the point where all parties felt comfortable in announcing the race would be on the 2016 schedule.

When it comes to IndyCar CEO Mark Miles, there are a lot of things that I don’t agree with. He and I have differing opinions. But I don’t for a minute think that the man is stupid. He has an impressive background and track record with ATP Tennis and the Indianapolis Super Bowl. Plus, you don’t become Chairman of the Board of Hulman and Company by being stupid. That’s why it puzzles me so much as to why a man with the stature of Mark Miles would allow a new event to be publicly announced without all the details worked out.

A series with a recent history of scheduling blunders does not need this. After the China and Brasilia fiascos, you would think the series would be more cautious. Perhaps they thought nothing like that could happen on domestic soil. Think again.

Dealing with municipalities is nothing new to IndyCar. Yes, Long Beach has been on the schedule for decades – but I’ll be willing to bet that when the contract is renewed every few years that they have to go through all sorts of legal maneuvering with the city and the state to continue. Baltimore and Houston were both short-lived events, but at least they took place before other factors made them go away. I can’t believe that Boston has that much more hidden red-tape than those cities, that no one had any idea that they needed to be dealt with.

I would’ve given anything to have been a fly on the wall in those meetings last week. But then again, maybe not. When you get a room filled with representatives from IndyCar along with state and local government officials, you’ve got a model of inefficiency that would rival anything in any textbook on how to not get anything accomplished for a long period of time.

As I say – I have a gut feeling that the powers-that-be will get this done and the race will run next September; but the damage has been done. It’s just more egg on the face of a series that gives the appearance that they don’t know how to get out of their own way. It’s like they plucked the IndyCar executive management team from the Ted Mack Amateur Hour (if you’re under fifty, look it up). It makes IndyCar look extremely unprofessional – especially in the eyes of potential sponsors.

What if the Indiana Pacers had a game scheduled tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but failed to mention that to the arena management who decided to schedule a Taylor Swift Concert on the same night? Then they didn’t discover the error until tickets had been sold to both. Someone is losing their job over that one. At IndyCar, you just blame the promoter who blames the neighborhood and the state and local governments.

While potential sponsors shudder and stay away, long suffering IndyCar fans just shake their collective heads in disgust – because they’ve seen this movie before, and it never ends well.

I consider myself to be a pretty positive guy and I hate being so negative about this situation. But it looks all too familiar. It’ll get done and the race will run. From what I hear, the track sounds very intriguing – well, as intriguing as a street course can be. Tickets will sell well for the first year, despite local unrest over the event. But the novelty will be gone by Year Two and it will be a tax-burden by Year Three, and that’ll be it. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s similar to what happened in Houston (twice), Denver, Baltimore and Edmonton. And don’t ever forget that farce of a “race” around an interstate interchange at the New Jersey Meadowlands. Mercifully, that event ended after the 1991 season. Whoever conceived that race should be tied up and made to watch taped re-runs of that debacle for an entire weekend.

I hope I’m wrong and I wish this event well. It has gotten off to a rocky start and it doesn’t sound like the locals will ever embrace it. I would like to see this event become a Labor Day tradition, but I think if anyone wants to see racing in Boston – they probably need to do it within the next couple of years. History would indicate that it probably will not be around much more than that. But when Mark Miles and his cronies target their next city for a potential street race, I would recommend they make sure all is in order before announcing it and putting it on the schedule.

George Phillips

14 Responses to “Get All The Details Worked Out First”

  1. JP, Colorado Springs Says:

    Or better yet, Indycar should limit the series to ovals, permanent road courses and existing street venues. Add Laguna Seca, Kansas, Kentucky, Chicagoland, Watkins Glen, Fontana, Milwaukee, etc. Mark Miles keeps getting into bed with dubious promoters so we can all get to watch crappy street races with all the ” beautiful people” in a given locale……….

    • If the promoters of Laguna Seca, Kansas, Kentucky, Chicagoland, and Watkins Glen could make money on an Indycar event, they would already be on the schedule. The promoters of these venues have all said that they’d love for Indycar to race there, but in the current business environment, indycar doesn’t draw the fans or sposnors to make money on such an event. Indycar can’t just go to these venues because you or I want them to.

      • I will agree with you on Fontana though. Mark Miles screwed the pooch on that one with his stupid “end before labor day obsession”.

  2. Did the promoter misrepresent things? Almost certainly, as I don’t think Miles wanted this negative publicity, but the old adage about “fool me once, shame on you…” applies, doesn’t it?

    • billytheskink Says:

      It does indeed, though I will give Indycar some leeway for the fact that these issues have typically not derailed domestic races.

      But yeah… the number of cancelled races over the past 15 years or so of American open wheel racing could about fill a decent schedule themselves.

  3. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    “Tickets will sell well for the first year, despite local unrest over the event. But the novelty will be gone by Year Two and it will be a tax-burden by Year Three, and that’ll be it.”

    Copy and paste this bit every time there’s a street race with less than 100% commitment and enthusiasm from the locals.

  4. I’ve got to say that I’m pretty disgusted by this whole Boston business. Why you ask?

    Here in Houston, Indycar was wanted, and we had a huge title sponsor in Shell, and the race didn’t disrupt traffic. It had a great date in October that was popular with race fans and they turned out in large numbers. The race was popular. But thanks to Mark Miles’ dumb “ending by Labor Day” experiment (thank God that’s over) we were left off the calendar. Indycar is crooning about being in Boston cause its the 7th largest city in the US. Houston is 4th largest (and soon to be 3rd) and yet we were treated like dirt by Indycar. Disgusted. They left a sure and reliable race here for a sketchy one in Boston (assuming it even happens).

    • DZ-groundedeffects Says:

      OK, we’ve got no ‘skin the game’ (aka The Milesian Stakeholder) although I’d argue you and I are the most valuable people in the equation of Indycar – a fan with eyeballs, ticket budget, and product loyalty. If we’re not important as “stakeholders”, I don’t know who is.

      I feel your pain.

      Title sponsors are integral to any sort of quality street race and to simply move/drop this race from an already successful date with local support when it better suited the venue and promoter is purely asinine.

      I feel immensely for those injured in 2014 and wonder if that also was a factor in the dropping of Houston for 2015, ’16. I hope it returns in some way but I’m not sure how much damage one can do before the value of the event drops too much.

      • Just my opinion, but the date change to the middle of June (where it regularly reaches over 100 degrees with 90+% humidity) was the chief reason attendance dropped so much. Franchitti’s crash was bad and I’m sure it influenced some to skip the next one. But there are alot of racing fans in the Houston Area. It’s prime real estate for Indycar too because there is no NASCAR presence in the city. And yet Indycar drops it like it’s an afterthought.

  5. I say bring back Houston and if IndyCar would like to run a race through my neighborhood I won’t complain. They can use my yard as part of the garage/paddock!

  6. Chis Lukens Says:

    I didn’t see it in the poll, but I would have voted for “Never should have gone to Boston, should have gone to Gateway instead.”

  7. hey George. again they are getting ready to get slapped in the face for wanting another street race. when will they learn? they had two decent races at venures that just needed some tlc in Fontana and milwaukeee. Fontana still wants to be on the schedule and Milwaukee needs there date after indy back and it would have no trouble drawing a crowd. and if you don’t want these tracks the guy at st Louis is begging to get on the sked. so wat can you say? they still havient learned a dam thing.

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