Personally, I have no interest in the Edmonton Indy, or car racing at all.
Souped up cars going round-and-round for hours just isn’t my idea of entertainment. I went to the Edmonton Indy a few years back, and couldn’t figure out who was leading and who was losing. But, that being said, I could see the appeal: it’s loud, it’s fast, it’s a spectacle, and there’s always the possibility of a flaming crash and horrible mangled drivers. But it’s just not for me.
Still, I find the loss of the Edmonton Indy to be a disappointment, particularly since Edmonton comes off looking bad.
It was just last summer that the City of Edmonton signed three-year, $5.5 million deal with Octane Racing out of Montreal to run and promote the race. Now, unexpectedly, the deal is done.
Although it looks like we’re going to have one of those “he said-she said” debates going on, it appears the two sides parted company when the city asked to move the site to a different location at the airport. According to Octane, the city wanted them to kick in the additional $2-3 million in pave the part of the City Centre airport where the race was to be relocated. According to the city, council had directed the administration to spend no more than $5 million for the next three years on the race, and when the extra costs came in, bureaucrats pulled the plug.
Maybe Octane was being unreasonable. Or maybe the city went back on the deal. But here’s what I don’t understand: city council voted on the agreement with Octane in the first place, so why wasn’t city council consulted when the deal fell apart? Isn’t this the kind of decision council should make, and not the administration.
Yes, the Indy has been a money loser since the beginning. But clearly, judging from the thousands upon thousands of fans who filled the temporary stands at the airport (how many fans has always been a mystery, since attendance has never been announced) it was a popular event. I like the touch of glamour that the race brought to a decidedly unglamourous city, and it will drive Edmontonians crazy if the race moves to Vancouver or — God forbid — Calgary, and becomes a success.
Supporters like to say the race was worth millions in free publicity, since it was broadcast around the world. But in reality, you had to search to find it, and it didn’t have major exposure on a big all-sports network like ESPN, or on American TV. I think its value as an event was oversold.
I don’t like the way the plug was pulled by anyone other than city council, but the race was, economically, a dog, and it is probably the right thing to cancel the contract before we dumped any more taxpayer cash into this money pit.
Still, my sympathies to racing fans.