Md. board OKs extra $1.5 million for Grand Prix construction

Money from Stadium Authority budget will pay to convert Camden Yards parking lots to pit lanes

November 03, 2010|By Yeganeh June Torbati, The Baltimore Sun

The state's Board of Public Works approved Wednesday an additional $1.5 million for preparations for the Baltimore Grand Prix Road Race, as the Maryland Stadium Authority waits for delayed payments from the private group organizing the race.

The allocated funds, which will come from the budget of the Maryland Stadium Authority and go toward converting parking lots at Camden Yards into a pit lane for race cars, were approved without discussion at the board's meeting and is the last step before construction begins this month. The race is scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

Baltimore Racing Development, the company organizing the race, did not make a scheduled Oct. 1 bond payment of $800,000 to the authority because of cash-flow problems.

Late last month, the company negotiated a new plan under which it would pay the Maryland Stadium Authority $900,000 before the end of this year to act as insurance in case the race is canceled. The first $150,000 payment under that staggered plan was made on time this week, said Michael Frenz, executive director of the authority.

If the rest of the payments are not made, Frenz said, "we have a variety of remedies, up to and including stopping construction."

The racing group continues to hunt for a title sponsor that would pay for major advertising for the race. The company has indicated since August that it is close to announcing a title sponsor, but negotiations with several companies continue.

The authority will spend about $1.9 million to convert the Camden Yards lots, money it expects to be paid back with interest over the course of the Grand Prix's five-year presence in Baltimore.

Elsewhere, races have been shut down because of disagreements between organizers and local officials. The IZOD IndyCar series announced Wednesday it was canceling its 2011 race in Edmondton, Alberta, because event promoters and city officials could not agree on who would pay for site improvements and repavements at a proposed location for the race.

The construction work on the Camden Yards parking lots is slated to begin this month and last until June. Maryland-based construction group J. Vinton Schafer and Sons, Inc. won the contract in a bid process that attracted around 20 firms, said Eric Johnson, who is managing the Grand Prix project for the Stadium Authority.

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