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Scheduled IndyCar race on streets of Boston canceled

April 29, 2016

An IndyCar race has pulled out of Boston long before the first car ever started its engine—although a key series official says a backup plan is already in the works.

Organizers of the Grand Prix of Boston, which had been planned for Labor Day weekend this year and again each year through 2020, told the open wheel circuit Friday that they have scratched plans to bring a race to the city.

Like a failed Olympics proposal before it, the IndyCar race ran into public opposition and a wavering commitment from local leaders.

Mark Miles, the president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar circuit, said the promoter "is throwing in the towel."

"It's very disappointing if that's the result," Miles said. "It certainly will be a black eye for the city. I don't blame it on the people of Boston. If it doesn't happen, it will have to do with promoters of sports events being able to make arrangements and rely on assurances given to them."

The cancellation could leave a gaping hole in the IndyCar series schedule from the time of the Aug. 21 race at Pocono to the Sept. 18 finale in Sonoma.

But Miles told the AP that IndyCar has been working on a backup plan.

"Nothing is in place or finalized," he said.

Grand Prix of Boston organizers said financial and other demands by public officials made the race “fiscally untenable,” despite what they called strong ticket sales and corporate sponsorships.

John Casey, CEO and president of the Grand Prix of Boston, said the decision to cancel is “very disappointing for everyone who has worked so hard on the event.”

“We have had a team of over 50 people, as well as the city and state agency personnel who have been working tirelessly to find successful and viable solutions and unfortunately we are at an impasse,” Casey said in a written statement. “We are exploring all options and will have further information available in the coming days.”

The cancellation, which was first reported by The Boston Globe, has a familiar ring to Boston residents, who saw the city nominated by the USOC as the American bidder for the 2024 Summer Olympics. That effort quickly ran into public opposition; shortly after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he could not promise that the city would cover any cost overruns, the USOC pulled the bid and decided to put forth Los Angeles instead.

IndyCar officials ran into the same obstacles, first from neighbors that complained about the potential noise and inconvenience and later from government officials unwilling to put public funds at risk.

"As we continued to work with Boston Grand Prix they were unwilling or unable to meet the necessary requirements to hold an event of this size," Patrick Brophy, the city's chief of operations, said in a statement issued Friday night. "The mayor feels strongly in protecting the taxpayers and limiting the impact to residents, and we are not shy that we held them to very high standards."

In a letter sent to IndyCar team owners, Miles said the promoters "concluded that constantly-evolving financial conditions the city was trying to impose on the promoter were unsustainable." A copy of the letter was obtained by the AP on the condition of anonymity from an official who was not authorized to release it.

The IndyCar race was originally announced last May as a season-ending event on an 11-turn, 2.25-mile loop laid out over public streets near the South Boston waterfront.

But organizers ran into snags throughout the planning process. And in November, Walsh became upset with IndyCar officials, giving the series and its race promoter two weeks to finalize deals with Massachusetts state agencies needed to run the street race. If that didn't happen he threatened to pull the plug on the race.

IndyCar officials didn’t quite make that deadline, but they apparently made enough progress to placate the mayor. So in December, several state agencies, the city of Boston and the Grand Prix of Boston signed a letter of intent that outlined taxpayer protections and agreements all parties intended to negotiate over the next several months.

On Friday, Casey said Grand Prix organizers were able to “overcome significant obstacles” but more recent demands regarding flood zone issues and requirements for additional expenditures on their line of credit led to the decision to pull out.

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