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Grand Prix organizers will pay for economic study, release ticket info

In an about-face, the organizers of the Grand Prix of Baltimore say they will release ticket-sales information for the Labor Day weekend event.

J.P. Grant, a partner in the firm that put on the race, said Thursday the group also will commission an economic impact study. He said he decided such information is valuable for the public — and the business itself — to see.

"More information is better than less," said Grant, the money-man behind Race On LLC, who swept in to salvage the racing festival three months ago. "This is our baseline year. These will be our baseline numbers. These are the numbers that we were able to generate in 90 days."

Earlier this week, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the city would not commission an economic impact study of this year's event. Racing officials said they did not plan to publicly reveal ticket sales information; last year's study concluded that 160,000 people attended the event, though many were given free tickets.

Grant said he hoped to hire the same firm, Pittsburgh-based Forward Analytics, that conducted last year's economic impact report for the city. It indicated the inaugural race generated $47 million. The figure included $28 million in direct spending by spectators, promoters and vendors, as well as the ripple effect created by the revenue.

A separate study, conducted by an economics professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, concluded that last year's event generated about $25 million in spending, including about $10 million which likely would have been spent even if there had not been a race.

Grant said this year's attendance was lower than last year's, but that the race was run in a more responsible manner. All vendors and taxes will be paid, he said. He said he planned to release "within the next few days" total revenue from ticket sales, from which an estimate of paid attendance could be determined.

"It was 90 days of fighting head winds," Grant said of organizing the race. "No one believed it was going to happen. It wasn't until we started construction that people said, 'This is really happening.' We're going to be so far ahead going into 2013. I feel very confident we're going to have another successful race."

Ian Brennan, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said the mayor's office was glad to hear of Grant's decision.

"We welcome Race On's decision to perform another study of the Grand Prix and not at taxpayers' expense," he said in an e-mail. "The City's inaugural study confirmed that the racing event will have a significant positive economic impact and generate tax revenue for the City during an otherwise slow tourism weekend and showcase Baltimore to national and international television viewers."

Crowds were smaller and fewer grandstand seats were filled at this year's race, which wound through two miles of downtown streets. The second year of the race was hampered by rainy conditions, and organizers said they had less time to advertise.

Following the financial debacle wrought by Baltimore Racing Development, the organizers of last year's race, the city stipulated that Race On had to divert the admissions and amusement tax from each ticket sold into a "lock box" account.

Baltimore Racing Development took a full year to pay the city the tax, which amounts to 10 percent of total ticket sales. The company also failed to pay millions of dollars of debts to state agencies and private contractors.

The leaders of Race On have paid the city a $300,000 fee for services, as well as $50,000 to be distributed to community organizations near the race course. They also say that they have paid their contractors on time.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said Thursday he did not know how many had attended the race, but hoped to find out from Grant at an upcoming meeting.

Bernard said he thought the race was "very organized and very professional," but stressed there was no guarantee that IndyCar would return to Baltimore next year.

"We need to hear from J.P. Grant and the city if they're interested," Bernard said. "J.P. Grant has made indications that he is interested, but we need to sit down and hear what his plans and goals are."

Bernard explained that because other races had been canceled, Baltimore's race grew in importance in the current season.

"We were short races and it was very important for us," he said.

Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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