fb-pixel Skip to main content

Indy-style race promises crowds, revenue, and Olympics test run

Race to hit Seaport in 2016

(Boston Globe) Taking a drive through the Seaport’s IndyCar course. (By Alan Miller, Globe Staff)
(Boston Globe) A driver's POV of the planned course for Boston's 2016 IndyCar race. (By Alan Miller, Globe Staff)

The sleek Indy cars expected to whip around the Seaport District at speeds up to 180 miles per hour next year for the inaugural Grand Prix of Boston are similar to the turbo-charged racers that will be darting around Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500 this weekend.

The IndyCar Series, set for a visit to Boston on Labor Day weekend 2016, is expected to generate $35 million to $45 million in revenue and fill more than 44,000 hotel beds over the holiday weekend, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Friday.

“It’s a great opportunity for the city of Boston,’’ said Walsh. “It’s going to put us [in] the international spotlight. It’s a great way to showcase our city.’’


Organizers also say the event could be another test of the city’s performance in handling a big event as it attempts to persuade the International Olympic Committee to award the 2024 Games to Boston.

When IndyCar Series officials announced on Thursday that their schedule would expand to include an 11-turn, 2.25-mile street course in Boston, organizers credited Mark Perrone, a 61-year-old racing executive who is a native of Ipswich, for being the driving force behind the local coordinating effort.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work from community leaders and Grand Prix Boston officials,’’ said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman and Co., parent company of the race series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “And those efforts led to this key addition to our 2016 calendar.’’

Perrone, a 20-year motorsports executive with NASCAR and the now-defunct Champ Car World Series, helped coalesce local support with Walsh for the first IndyCar race in Boston.

Perrone landed a five-year license agreement with city officials and a five-year sanctioning agreement with IndyCar. He predicted the city could reap as much as $70 million to $80 million, roughly double the mayor’s estimate.


The Grand Prix of Boston course.

“IndyCar is already looking for 1,000 rooms on the waterfront,’’ said Perrone, who has staged IndyCar races all over the world. “Boston is a destination city with 23 million visitors a year. The Labor Day weekend has been a down time for visits and hotels are at like 20 percent occupancy, so this is a huge boost.”

Peronne said the event will not require taxpayer support, and will not require major road closures. He said the track’s designer mapped out a route that will leave Summer Street and Seaport Boulevard open before, during, and after the race.

“There will be no major road closures, and we’ll make sure our track construction doesn’t impact any traffic or pedestrian flow,’’ he said.

“When you plan a street event, you keep in mind that it has the least amount of impact on the commercial and residential communities,’’ Perrone said. “And I think we’ve done that.’’

The IndyCar Series has held street races in other cities, including St. Petersburg, Fla., Long Beach, Calif., Detroit, and Toronto. It will mark the first IndyCar Series race in the Boston area, though the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon hosted the New Hampshire Indy 225 in 2011.

Ken Brissette, Boston’s director of tourism, sports, and entertainment, helped Perrone and Grand Prix of Boston officials navigate the corridors of City Hall.

Perrone said civic leaders committed to the race in December. Walsh sent a letter to IndyCar officials, prompting Miles to lead a contingent from his organization to Boston for a meeting with the mayor, his chief of economic development, John Barros, and other city officials.


“We were very cautious,’’ Brissette said. “We still are very cautious going forward. We want to make sure it is right for the city. We want to make sure this is right for the community.’’

When he was approached three years ago by IndyCar officials to begin scouting for a venue in a Northeast market, Perrone said, he received a lukewarm reception in Boston from the previous administration. Providence expressed an interest, Perrone said, but the idea never gained traction there.

It wasn’t until Walsh took office in Boston that Perrone finally engaged in substantive talks.

“You need municipal cooperation and participation, and they’ve totally embraced it,’’ Perrone said.

City officials signed a contract with IndyCar officials 10 days ago.

The biggest boost, Perrone suggested, could be to Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

“This event will be a litmus test for the City of Boston and its Olympic bid with the IOC,’’ Perrone said.

Other major sports events that come to Greater Boston, he said, usually last for one day, such as the Boston Marathon, or are “venue-driven,’’ such as games at TD Garden, Gillette Stadium, or Fenway Park.

“This is going to be a great test for the city’s services, Boston police, traffic flow, pedestrian flow, how to manage large crowds going in and out over a three-, four-day period,’’ he said. “If the city can show the IOC this, we can be a great resource for them because this is our wheelhouse: temporary hospitality, pedestrian flow, how to work traffic patterns.’’


Meghan Irons and Laura Crimaldi of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.