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Grand Prix of Boston struggling to pay refunds

Grand Prix officials have said they sold “several thousand” tickets to the race, which was canceled in late April, and had promised “we will be working through the refunds as quickly as possible.”Michael Dwyer/Associated Press/File

The Grand Prix of Boston, a proposed street race that never made it to the starting line, is out of money for refunds, raising questions about how customers who bought tickets for the event will be repaid.

Grand Prix officials have said they sold “several thousand” tickets to the race, which was canceled in late April, and had promised “we will be working through the refunds as quickly as possible.”

But after forwarding $400,000 for refunds, the company does not have any money left to return, having used ticket income toward business expenses related to putting on the event, said Grand Prix attorney and spokesman Michael J. Goldberg, of Casner & Edwards.

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“Boston Grand Prix regrets any inconvenience to its ticket holders due to the cancellation of the 2016 race, which resulted from circumstances beyond the company’s control,” the Grand Prix said in a statement Goldberg provided. “Refunding ticket holders is a first priority for BGP, and the company is working diligently with all parties involved to provide refunds. As funds become available, they will be forwarded . . . for processing of refunds.”

Representatives of the Grand Prix are trying to get back deposits they had put down for goods and services related to the race, to free up more money for refunds, Goldberg said.

He said he did not know how many customers are still waiting for their money. ESPN reported in April that organizers had sold more than 20,000 tickets. General admission tickets were priced at $99 for a three-day pass, and reserved grandstand tickets were priced at $150 to $205, according to figures released by the Grand Prix of Boston in March.

Boston’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.

The event was billed as a showcase for Boston, an opportunity for international exposure through the TV broadcast of the race, and an economic stimulus for the hospitality industry on what typically is a slow end-of-summer weekend.

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Innumerable hours went into preparing and permitting the event. Over many months, organizers held lengthy negotiations and planning sessions with city officials and state agencies that control portions of the proposed race course.

But plans skidded and came apart in April, amid clashes between race promoters and the city. Grand Prix of Boston president John Casey accused the city of making unreasonable demands; the city, in response, suggested the race promoters were disorganized.

The national Indycar organization sued the Boston Grand Prix in May for alleged breach of contract.

“Indycar filed suit to enforce its rights under the agreement with Boston Grand Prix and to cause them to meet their obligation to refund the ticket revenue to Indycar fans who purchased tickets to the event,” Stephen Starks, Indycar vice president of promoter relations, said in a statement Thursday.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh told reporters Thursday “the deal was that if the race didn’t happen [customers] would be reimbursed. We were told that as well.”

“There’s not much we can do right now” for customers, Walsh said. “Their gripe is with Indycar.”

Patrons who bought tickets are irate about not receiving refunds.

“I have attempted everything and right now I am at a loss,” said Cody Butler, who bought three Grand Prix tickets for a total of $585. After a month of calling the ticketing office, the Grand Prix, Boston City Hall, and even LogMeIn, which had been a corporate sponsor of the event, he initiated a chargeback on his credit card. His bank’s review could take 120 days, he said.

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“I don’t expect my bank to issue a refund because it’s not their problem,” said Butler, 25, of Quincy.

“I’m extremely frustrated,” he said, in an interview. “I can’t even think of a adjective to describe how angry I am.”

Butler said he filed a consumer complaint with state Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

Healey’s office confirmed it has received complaints and is in discussions with the Boston Grand Prix.

Henri Delger, 72, of Quincy, said his bank removed the Grand Prix charge from his account in May, after he filed a chargeback. He’s a longtime race fan who can recall paying $5 at a Boston movie theater in the 1960s or early 70s to watch a fuzzy picture of the Indianapolis 500.

He said he wants to know if organizers sold “something that didn’t exist, that they knew would never exist, in order to recover their investment.”

Another customer, Myles Reagan, said by e-mail that his race tickets cost a little over $1,000. Waiting for a refund has left him skeptical of plans to bring Indycar to Boston in coming years.

“This does not bode well for the future of this event,’’ he wrote.


Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark

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