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Toronto Loses Grand Prix

St. Even

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I know a lot of people will say good riddance, but this is a pretty cool circuit to be on.

From The Star
Toronto tourism takes $50M hit with loss of race
Toronto Indy cars hit the first turn in 2005 - race has been summer tradition along waterfront since 1986.

Race fans sideswiped by circuit sideshow
It was nice, even great, while it lasted.
Layoffs predicted as city loses Grand Prix
Feb 23, 2008 04:30 AM
Jim Byers
Rick Matsumoto
Staff Reporter

Toronto's hospitality industry will take a $50 million hit this summer with the cancellation of the Toronto Grand Prix.

The annual summer racing extravaganza, which began in 1986 as the Molson Indy, attracted tens of thousands of visitors from across the continent.

But sources say the event – which may return in 2009 – fell victim this year to a deal signed between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series.

Put simply, there wasn't enough room for all the events on both groups' calendars, and the Toronto Grand Prix was sacrificed for the 2008 racing season.

Losing the event will be a huge blow to the city's economy, and could even result in temporary job losses, officials warned last night. But the loss is surviveable, says deputy mayor Joe Pantalone, who heads up Exhibition Place, where the race is centred every summer.

"It would be a hit if we lost the race, but not a fatal hit," Pantalone said. "It would mean less tourism and less international exposure for the city. People see the city's skyline and the CN Tower and the waterfront on TV and it makes Toronto look pretty good."

The deal to unify the two open-wheel race car circuits ends a 12-year battle between the two groups.

Because the Toronto event has been one of the better attended and reliable events on the Champ Car (formerly CART) circuit for years, one source close to the negotiations said Toronto will likely be on next year's schedule.

Duncan Ross, the city's tourism director, said studies have shown the race has an annual impact of $50 million on the city's economy, attracting tens of thousands of paying fans to nearby hotels, bars and malls.

"From a tourism perspective, one thing this event offers is an international and North American broadcast audience," Ross said. "Any chance tourism marketers have for a live TV feed ... is an incredibly positive opportunity. The dynamic images ... have a way of making visitors want to come to the city.

"One of the most important things we can do is to have a diverse calendar with events that appeal to all markets. It's one of the major events we have, along with things like the film festival, Caribana and Pride Day."

Asked if the race would be hard to replace from a tourism standpoint, Ross replied, "Definitely. In a short period of time it would be a challenge. But I think the community would come together to do whatever's possible to be sure something replaces it."

Ross said there could be layoffs, possibly among workers who install seats alongside the race course and such.

But Pantalone said with Toronto in a building boom, many will likely find other work if the 2008 race is cancelled.

"We don't have a full-time staff of construction workers at the Ex," he explained. "But there's no doubt that for the bottom line, it would be a hit. You don't lose a major international attraction without it being a hit."

Tourism Toronto vice president Andrew Weir said he wants to focus on the long term, not just worry about a potential 2008 loss.

"A merger is good for race fans," he said. "It's good for any host city. The audience will be less fragmented (compared to when Champ Car and Indy races ran separately) and that will mean better TV exposure. All the stars of racing will be there, which is what people want to see."

"I think this is a good thing for open-wheel racing, the events, the teams and the drivers," said Charlie Johnstone, CEO of the Toronto Grand Prix. "How it plays out for individual events or teams or drivers, those particulars will still have to be shaken out."

Full details of the pact won't be made public until next week.

Johnstone said the year's hiatus for Toronto could have an adverse affect on fan acceptance for a revival in 2009, but that could be overcome with sustained promotion.

"The only way to do it successfully would be to come back for 2009 at the end of the 2008 season, saying `Here's our title sponsor, here's our support series, our entertainment.'"

He said the merger means some of the most famous names in North American open-wheel racing – Andretti, Rahal, Green and Penske – would return to Toronto and that would help revive interest.

Torontoveteran Paul Tracy, who remained in Champ Car driving for Forsythe Racing, welcomed the merger, but his enthusiasm was tempered by the fact he hadn't been told if Forsythe will join the new series this year. "We're in the dark on this whole thing," he said.

Tracy said if Forsythe does compete, it will be difficult for Champ Car teams to be competitive early in the season, which will begin March 29 in Homestead, Fla.

He said he'd be willing to run at the back of the pack until the team got up to speed with IRL drivers.
 
My condolences to race fans.

Perhaps one thing that could come out of this is that a real redevelopment of Exhibition Place can now take place, with the race course now possibly out of action for at least a year. I'd really like to see an alternative race site somewhere in Toronto or the GTA... Downsview, perhaps?
 
It is sad, but Champ/IRL cannot compete with F1 or Nascar.

But how could the race be sacraficed for 2008? They said Toronto was the 5th best market and yet they canned one of their strongest supporters / money makers?

I say screw Champ/IRL (it's become a joke anyhow) and build an F1 or Nascar circuit somewhere (Downsview!) :).

Like wylie said, let the development begin! Hoping for a 2009 return is like hoping the leafs will win the cup.
 
I'm indifferent. I recognize the contribution to the tourism economy, but also recongize that it's been a barrier to improving the CNE grounds, and a loud, polluting one weekend to stay away from the western waterfront. We've gained new events like Luminato since.

I wonder if the skipping of Toronto has anything to do with the Frank D'Angelo meltdown - after all, his insolvent Steelback brewery isn't sponsoring it again.
 
There's something really wonderful about having a big race event immersed in the city. Rather than be compartmentalized off at Downsview, I wish the race reached even further into the city.

Maybe we should pioneer a North American Urban Racing Cup
 
... perhaps we need something more Torontonian ... perhaps we could race street cars - we could clear out Queen Street, and they can drag down each track. :)
 
I'm indifferent. I recognize the contribution to the tourism economy, but also recongize that it's been a barrier to improving the CNE grounds, and a loud, polluting one weekend to stay away from the western waterfront. We've gained new events like Luminato since.

Honestly most Torontonians could give two figs about the waterfront. It's large scale "world-class" events like this, CHIN picnic, the Ex and Caribana that reminds us it's there, draw crowds and allow us to reconnect with the lakeshore. What's a little revved engines in a city already blanketed in smog and noise pollution, right ;)?!!

After the major blows to Toronto tourism caused by SARS, the cancellation of the Rochester Ferry and losing the Olympics bid, this comes as another nail in the coffin. $50 million could have towards so much. Heh, better luck next year.

... perhaps we need something more Torontonian ... perhaps we could race street cars - we could clear out Queen Street, and they can drag down each track.

Given the slug pace of the 501, that'd be the world's longest and dullest race in history.
 
After the major blows to Toronto tourism caused by SARS, the cancellation of the Rochester Ferry and losing the Olympics bid, this comes as another nail in the coffin. $50 million could have towards so much. Heh, better luck next year.

I'm not sure if it's quite a "nail in the coffin" of our tourism industry -- don't forget Toronto set a record for tourism numbers in 2007 -- but it is a lot of money and great international exposure gone.
(http://www.torontotourism.com/Media/PressReleases/RecordYear.htm)

I must say, though, I do like it when American TV crews come to town for sporting and other events -- they have a way of making our city look stunning.
 
After the major blows to Toronto tourism caused by SARS, the cancellation of the Rochester Ferry and losing the Olympics bid,

I think the Rochester ferry will be missed by those in Rochester far more than Toronto. I doubt it contributed much to the Toronto economy. I also don't think you can count the loss of the Olympics bid as a "blow" since it was only ever theoretical and wouldn't have taken place for years into the future. Looking at the hassles the Winter games are causing in BC, I don't really envy them. Besides, as mentioned above, 2007 was the best year for tourism in Toronto for years, so I hardly think it's all doom and gloom.

As far as the car race, personally I will be glad to see it gone. It was just one more noisy, polluting event in a summer schedule that already has so many big events that make living downtown a hassle in the summer. But with my personal biases aside, yes, it's a shame so much tourist business will be lost.

Let's use this an opportunity to replace it was something better and more progressive than a car race! In an age of climate change and oil shortages, driving cars around in circles for hours on end looks more ridiculous every year.
 
I think that with this event, as with everything else, "money talks"...if it is really the 5th best event, meaning the 5th most profitable, then it will be back..
 
There's something really wonderful about having a big race event immersed in the city. Rather than be compartmentalized off at Downsview, I wish the race reached even further into the city.

I don't find anything wonderful about the rusting steel fence surrounding the CNE ground the other 51 weeks a year (or the disused track sections around the Automotive Building and BMO field)
 
I don't find anything wonderful about the rusting steel fence surrounding the CNE ground the other 51 weeks a year (or the disused track sections around the Automotive Building and BMO field)

So put them to use. Just because there isn't a clever solution right now, doesn't mean there can't be one. There's nothing in racing that stipulates rusting fences or courses that MUST remain disused until there's a CART race.

Anyway, other than a rusting fence, I didn't think there WERE disused sections of the course? Isn't it all used as access roads, through-streets, and boulevards?

I understand that most of you are transit fans of the highest order, but that doesn't mean there isn't also room in our city for cars and motorsports. Our city isn't a cultural ivory tower, we shouldn't seek to program it that way.
 
... perhaps we need something more Torontonian ... perhaps we could race street cars - we could clear out Queen Street, and they can drag down each track. :)

Sure, why not both?

We can have a Street Car race involving different countries' street car stock - racing on a closed course in the city.

It's impractical on so many levels (transportation to Toronto, mismatched gauges and turning radii, freezing the transit grid for a race, etc. but why not?
 
Sure, why not both?

We can have a Street Car race involving different countries' street car stock - racing on a closed course in the city.

It's impractical on so many levels (transportation to Toronto, mismatched gauges and turning radii, freezing the transit grid for a race, etc. but why not?

Or we could marry it with Pride and give new meaning to Drag Racing.
 
I think the Rochester ferry will be missed by those in Rochester far more than Toronto. I doubt it contributed much to the Toronto economy.

Let's use this an opportunity to replace it was something better and more progressive than a car race! In an age of climate change and oil shortages, driving cars around in circles for hours on end looks more ridiculous every year.

Well in pre-on par dollar connotation, the fact that Toronto's has an active tourism campaign and noteworthy attractions while Rochester's a dying coastal enclave, could have meant more tourists coming from Stateside than vice-versa, hence more greenbacks in our pockets.

If the Grand Prix doesn't happen here it'll occur somewhere else, and it'll be them receiving the media coverage and tourist dollars. What other event(s) can you think of that'd bring like a million people to the Exhibition Grounds for one weekend only?

I don't find anything wonderful about the rusting steel fence surrounding the CNE ground the other 51 weeks a year (or the disused track sections around the Automotive Building and BMO field)

I agree, it shouldn't take these huge mediated events to draw crowds to the lakeshore. An active year-long campaign to arouse tourist interest should be implemented by city officals and while I find the dated artitecture of the CNE grounds charming, it would be nice to galvinize or outright replace rusting fixtures to make facilities safer for guests and especially young children.
 

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