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Grand Prix deserves a second chance

FinanceLabor DayGrand Prix of Baltimore

So let me see if I have this right. The Baltimore Grand Prix generated $47 million in economic impact for Baltimore and proved valuable in terms of positive media exposure and civic pride. Granted, this figure is considerably less than the overly optimistic financial impact predicted by Baltimore Racing Development, which estimated a figure of about $70 million.

Yet for the lack of timely payments of about $3.8 million to the city, state, and vendors, the city is now threatening to pull the plug on the event after a spectacularly successful debut in which over 160,000 fans attended the biggest sporting event in Baltimore's history; one which did a great deal to project a favorable, new image of Baltimore to the world, far removed from the gritty, crime-infested perception of the city that much of the world accepts as the truth.

You have got to be kidding me. Why would we want to throw away an event that in its inaugural year brought $47 million into our city, just because it wasn't quite as spectacularly successful from a financial standpoint as it was from every other standpoint? No one expected the race to be profitable from the start — that was always understood. It takes time to ramp up an event of this magnitude and realize the return on investment.

The biggest investment the city made was in street repairs, and most of that money came from federal stimulus funds which could only have been used for street repairs. It's not like we could have used that money for improvements to schools or community centers, or whatever your favorite cause might be.

Shortsightedness and impatience seem to be rampant. Everyone seems to believe that results should be instantaneous, and when they're not, there must be something wrong and we should go in another direction immediately. So now the mayor is feeling the political heat and is threatening to abandon the Grand Prix before it's been given a chance to prove itself over the course of the initial five-year contract.

But wait a minute. Some $47 million was spent in Baltimore over Labor Day weekend. Take away the race and that's gone. What are you going to do to bring in that kind of money next year and beyond?

Baltimore Racing Development certainly gave the city a rosier financial expectation than they should have, but the event was a huge success and deserves a chance to prove itself and repay its relatively small debts. Killing it now will just force it into bankruptcy and then no one wins — and Baltimore really loses.

Rich Lauver, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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