Baltimore's party is over – and it was a grand one. A Grand Prix one, to be exact. But now it is time to put the carpet and the furniture back where they belong.
Even before the last fan made it home from Baltimore's inaugural three-day IndyCar racing festival Sunday evening, the city and race organizers had begun the daunting task of removing 16 grandstands, several miles of concrete barriers topped with fencing — plus countless tents — in order to open downtown streets and sidewalks for the beginning of the workweek.
By Monday morning, Interstate 395 into the city was still funneling traffic to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but Interstate 295 to Russell Street was flowing gingerly onto Pratt Street, which had been closed to regular traffic since last week. Other major cross streets were open as well early Monday.
"We are taking advantage of the holiday so that we can have all major roads open by 6 a.m. Tuesday morning," said Adrienne Barnes of Baltimore's Department of Transportation.
Baltimore Grand Prix general manager Dale Dillon predicted it would take two weeks to remove the barriers and about that long to dismantle the grandstands that held tens of thousands of fans over the weekend.
"Generally it is a six- to eight-week building process and a two-week tear-down process," said Dillon. "When you are in the heart of a city like Baltimore, with traffic, it can take a little longer, but we will be doing most of our work at night."
Early Monday morning, Bill Bunting's team was taking apart the grandstand in front of the entrance to the Baltimore Convention Center. It was the first one up and the first one to come down. Dillon said he expected it to be gone by this morning.
"We want to clear it so they can use the entrance," said Bunting, who worked with his crew through a light rain. After the convention center, the workers will move to the grandstands at Light Street and then to Russell Street.
The bleacher contractors were given 40 days to put up the stands, "and we used every last one of them," Bunting said. He predicted it would take three to four weeks to take it all down, but city officials hoped for better.
"The goal is two weeks," said Pete Collier, chief operating officer for Baltimore Grand Prix, "and we've got a lot of great people."
Baltimore has a five-year deal with the open-wheel racing community, and it plans to use the catch fences and the 2,600 41/2 -ton concrete barriers again. To that end, the pieces that lined the 2-mile course are being carefully numbered and stored in a city warehouse.
"We want to be able to put it right back up again," said Collier, who also had to find room for the thousands of tires that buffered the course and provided safety zones.
The city's fire and emergency medical vehicles were back where they belonged, too.
"All the Fire Department assets demobilized Sunday evening," said Deputy Chief Kevin Cartwright of the Baltimore Fire Department. "All our EMTs, our bike teams, our hazmat crews. All of our resources are in place."
Aside from a few mild cases of dehydration caused by the heat and humidity, Cartwright said, "there were no remarkable events."
"The goal was simply to have us back to normal as early as possible," he said.
The area around the course was a hive of activity Monday. Forklifts zigged and golf carts zagged as workmen and vendors worked to pack up after what just about everybody agreed was a successful weekend. The odd beer or cola truck idled on back streets, ready to leave town. City workers picked up what remained of trash and litter.
"I have been involved in racing for 30 years," said Dillon, "And I have never seen anything like this. I can tell you without a doubt it exceeded anyone's expectations."
"We have a schedule and we want the city back to normal as soon as possible," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "We are setting the standard for how these big events are to be done."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun