Indycar race scratched for Seaport
Promoters of an IndyCar race in the Seaport this September are peeling out of Boston and will not race in the city.
“The relationship between us and the city is not working,” said John Casey, president of what had been called the Grand Prix of Boston, in a Globe interview Friday. “The relationship is untenable.”
The city’s inaugural IndyCar race had been scheduled for Labor Day weekend, on a 2.2-mile temporary street course around the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Promoters last May signed an agreement with Mayor Martin J. Walsh to hold the race in 2016, then annually for up to four more years.
Instead, the promoters will turn to Plan B and try to hold a Labor Day race in a backup city in the Northeast, Casey said. The promoters have had contact with two other cities, he said, one of which is in New England.
“They are both willing to do it without the headaches of Boston,” he said, declining to name the cities.
Boston is 0-2 recently on new, attention-grabbing sporting events, with the demise of the race coming less than a year after Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics collapsed.
Opponents on Friday cheered the end of the Grand Prix.
“We’re grateful that the public process finally worked, that the people of Boston will be spared the damage and destruction of our streets and that the people in South Boston and the Seaport. . . will be able to live their lives without the disruption this race portended,” said Larry Bishoff, cochairman of the Coalition Against IndyCar Boston, in a statement. “From the beginning, this was the wrong place and time for this event.”
Casey said city officials made relentless and unrealistic demands on the promoters that eventually just became too much to bear.
“I’m writing a book about this whole process,” he said. “It’s so ridiculous, it’s hysterical.”
Casey’s announcement comes after months of negotiations with city and state officials on agreements governing the conduct of the race.
Patrick Brophy, chief of operations for Boston, said in a statement that race organizers “were unwilling or unable to meet the necessary requirements to hold an event of this size.”
In a Globe interview, Brophy said the city insisted on protections for the taxpayers and the neighborhood.
“They didn’t want to do it, and we’re OK with it,” he said.
“I’m sure there will be plenty of good things to do in Boston over Labor Day weekend.”
The race promoters, he added, were highly disorganized.
Governor Charlie Baker’s office said that “planning this race was complex from the beginning, and the administration was pleased to work closely with race promoters and our city partners on mutually agreed upon protections for public safety and taxpayers while even extending key deadlines at the promoters’ request. The Baker administration looks forward to continuing the productive relationship with the City of Boston to promote the Commonwealth on the world’s stage.”
LogMeIn CEO Bill Wagner signed on early as a major sponsor for the event, in part because of the positive attention he said the race would bring to the city and to the neighborhood. His company’s Summer Street offices overlook a portion of the race course.
“We’re really disappointed,” said Wagner, who pointed to a city Conservation Commission vote last week that added to the race’s permitting woes.
“It felt like another hurdle was thrown at them,” Wagner added.
Wagner noted that ticket sales were off to a stronger-than-expected start, and employees at his high-tech company were enthusiastic.
“The level of excitement among our employees [about the race] had exceeded my expectations,” Wagner said. “It had a much broader appeal than a lot of people expected.”
The long-term impact to the city, Wagner said, could involve ripple effects that go well beyond the loss of the Labor Day weekend race.
“It’s going to send a signal to other people trying to bring events to Boston,” Wagner said. “If anyone else brings an event to Boston, I’m sure they’re going to call IndyCar and ask what their experience was. I would hate to hear what that call was [like].”