City officials and organizers have moved Baltimore's first Grand Prix to the long Labor Day weekend next year, which they say will draw larger crowds and cause fewer hassles than the August date for which the event had been planned. "We really want people to be able to come to this for the full three days, and not just for the Sunday race," said Baltimore Racing Development's president, Jay Davidson, who announced the date change. "This makes it marketable as an entire weekend in Baltimore City." Organizers also changed the race course, which now runs around rather than simply past Oriole Park at Camden Yards; introduced a pit area outside the baseball stadium and moved the paddock area indoors. City officials had long been angling to host the racing festival — which includes an expo, children's events and a series of smaller speed contests — over the long weekend, but scheduled it for the first weekend in August because of potential conflicts with Orioles and Ravens games. Officials said the race now was poised to attract more than the 100,000 spectators and garner more than the $65 million in economic benefits originally anticipated. "It's really helpful that it's happening on a holiday weekend," said City Councilman William H. Cole IV, who represents the downtown area and has been one of the race's most vocal backers. "It makes the travel a little easier and the hotels may be able to translate it into an extra night's stay."
Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum