Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on July 18, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Monday, July 18, 2011
Race Week Edmonton celebrations kick off
Race Week Edmonton celebrations officially launched on Monday with off-track activities scheduled throughout the week leading up to the Edmonton Indy.
“For fans and event goers it’s the perfect combination of on track excitement and off track parties,” said Anne Roy, general manager of the Indy.
“It’s going to be such a good race, all kinds of passing areas… the long straightaway is the longest in North America.”
Although there are no numbers on current ticket sales, Mayor Stephen Mandel said he’s heard good things.
“My understanding is ticket sales are going really well, there’s been lots of advertising, hopefully we’ll see big crowds out and Edmontonians will support the race,” Mandel said.
“Hopefully we’ll see a great race and that’s what people want, an exciting race, one that has lots of action to it.”
Race Week Edmonton is the local volunteer group promoting the Indy through a number of racing-themed events including a soap box derby, a Ford Family Fun Zone, a street festival, car show and more.
“We’re doing the Rice Howard Way Street Party where you’ll be able to do some tire changes and demonstrations there, the army will be there, AMA will be there with their hybid cars to talk about alternative energy, because fuel will change but racing will never go away,” said Richard Skermer, executive director of Race Week Edmonton.
“We’ll be racing with solar powered cars or hydrogen cars soon enough.”
Two Edmonton Transit Park and Ride locations are being planned for the Indy, compared to four from last year.
One will run from the Calder City Lot at 124 Street and 124 Avenue, the other shuttle from City Hall.
Officials say Park and Ride usage had declined in recent years, which resulted in the drop in number of Park and Ride locations.
Another factor is that this year there will be one parking lot on site with about 900 parking spots.
Other local businesses in the area are also set to provide their own parking as they’ve done with past Indy events.
Officials say there will also be a looping shuttle that can take race goers to different sides of the track.
To offset traffic congestion at the end of race days, organizers say this year concerts will be held in the beer gardens, which will hopefully keep people on site longer.
Roy says a lot of work has been put into this year’s race and with a new track, a new promoter, and the week’s festivities, race fans are bound to have a great time.
“Over these 12 months, a lot has transpired. And look at where we are now,” Roy said. “Track preparations are in full swing and the City Centre Airport is a hub of activity.”
In previous Indy years, the city lost over $12 million. The new three year deal with Octane Motorsports limits the city’s contribution to the event.
Local business contributions are helping build a new $3 million track at the City Centre Airport.
The city will cover the rest, by turning the land into a parking lot after the race.
The city is also providing octane with $5.5 Million worth of sponsorship and $1.5 Million in free police, transit and other services to run the race until 2013.
As for the future of the Indy in Edmonton, Mandel says discussions have taken place but now is not the time to focus on that.
“We’ve had some discussions and ideas but let’s finish this race first and see how it goes, maybe it will stay in this location for a year and then we’ll look at moving it but there have to be some long-term solutions to it because the airport won’t be open and I’m not sure if people living there would want a race car going through the neighbourhood,” Mandel said. “We’re looking at a variety of things.”
Octane is hoping to replicate the success seen for Montreal’s Grand Prix, a profitable event that draws considerable publicity and brings more than $80 million in economic benefit.
The Indy runs July 22 to the 24.