A week after unveiling its 2016 schedule, the IndyCar Series has hit what could be a major pothole.
The Boston Herald is reporting that Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh is giving IndyCar Series officials and their race promoter two weeks to finalize deals with Massachusetts state agencies needed to run a street race on Labor Day weekend. If that doesn’t happen, the race could be scuttled, the Herald is reporting.
“Please be advised that the mayor grows increasingly concerned with the progress (or lack thereof) of those discussions,” said an email from Walsh’s chief of operations, Patrick Brophy, to Jim Freudenberg, chief commercial officer for the Grand Prix of Boston, that was obtained by the Herald.
IndyCar had planned to begin selling tickets this month for the inaugural race, but Brophy asked race promoters to hit the brakes on that until the necessary agreements are signed.
IndyCar officials say they remain confident the race will be run as scheduled.
“We understand the agreements [for the Boston race] are in place,” Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said on a media conference call Oct. 27 announcing the 2016 schedule.
Miles’ statement contradicts Herald reports stating that several agencies with jurisdiction over roads in the Seaport District where the race will be run have failed to reach agreements with the race promoter or grant permission to use their roads.
IndyCar has failed to get permits from the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the state Department of Transportation, and the US Postal Service, according to the Herald.
Jana Watt, a spokeswoman for the Grand Prix of Boston, said negotiations with those groups are ongoing and race organizers remain confident deals will get done soon.
“We’re willing to come to the table and do whatever it takes,” Watt said.
A Massachusetts Port Authority spokesman told the Boston Globe on Monday that the agency “had a productive meeting on Friday” with IndyCar race organizers, “but there still are a lot of details to be worked out.”
Convention Center Authority Director Fred Peterson told the Herald this week his agency wasn’t “anywhere close” to reaching agreements with the series to use convention center property and roads, which are imperative for the 2.2-mile race course.
If IndyCar officials can’t get a deal done with local Boston agencies, the cancellation of the race would be a big blow to Miles’ 2016 schedule. Not only would the series lose a much-needed new race in a big market, but it would open a gaping hole in the series schedule from the time of the Aug. 21 race at Pocono to the Sept. 18 finale in Sonoma.
Miles made a big production last week about the importance of the pacing of the schedule. He said he wants enough times for teams to prepare for each race but wants the races close enough on the calendar to keep fans engaged throughout the season.
But if the Boston race goes away, not only will there be a month between the last two races, there will only be one race between the July 31 race at Mid-Ohio and the season-ending race in Sonoma seven weeks later.
If the Boston race crashes and burns, it will be difficult to schedule a replacement at this late date, leaving the 2016 schedule with 15 races, one fewer than last year. That’s not the type of progress Miles has been promising.