IndyCar inks key deals, appears headed for Boston

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A new IndyCar Series in Boston over the 2016 Labor Day weekend is now looking like a distinct possibility.

Last month, Boston Mayor Martin 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 apparently they made enough progress to placate the mayor. Earlier this month, a significant milestone was reached.

Several Massachusetts state agencies, the city of Boston and the Grand Prix of Boston signed a letter of intent Dec. 18 that outlines taxpayer protections and agreements all parties intend to negotiate over the next several months in preparation for the IndyCar Series race to debut Sept. 2-4 in the city’s Seaport District.

The agreements include protecting taxpayers from any costs associated with the race, requiring that Seaport area streets be returned to pre-event condition and providing regular opportunities for public input on the process.

The letter of intent was signed by officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, Massachusetts Port Authority, and city of Boston. The letter acknowledges that all parties will coordinate to develop detailed plans for traffic, security and other measures that are subject to the approval of city and state agencies.

“I am pleased that the city of Boston, Grand Prix and our administration have made progress on the project and provided protections for taxpayers, Boston residents and our state,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. “Pulling off such a large event will not only showcase what makes Massachusetts and Boston great for thousands of visitors, but will require additional planning, coordination and public input. Our administration looks forward to continued coordination with event organizers and the city of Boston as all participants put together carefully crafted plans to address all of the event’s potential impacts.”

The debut of the Boston race is scheduled as the 15th of 16 events on the 2016 IndyCar Series calendar. A 2.25-mile temporary street circuit is being developed in the Seaport District.

“This agreement is a tangible step forward for the event and will protect our taxpayers, ensure that there is a strong community process and provide the highest level of cooperation among all the agencies involved,” Walsh said in a statement. “I thank the other agencies for their coordination in these efforts and look forward to working with them in the months ahead as Boston prepares for this world-class event that will boost our local economy and tourism sector.”

John Casey, chief financial officer for the Grand Prix of Boston, said the agreement now allows race promoters to put tickets on sale, something Walsh had demanded they not do until the deal got hammered out.

Casey added that race promoters hadn’t reached, “the finish line of the planning process just yet,” but he is confident they will.

“We’ve worked closely with city and state agencies and we’re excited by the progress we’ve all made in recent weeks,” Casey said. “Now we’re able to prepare to put tickets on sale after the new year and continue to engage the business community for sponsorship and hospitality partners.”

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