Grand Prix Returns, Local Impact

| February 22, 2012 | 1 Comments

Very few topics have been more polarizing in the last year than the Baltimore Grand Prix.  The event was a great weekend for Baltimore filled with races, festivals, beer gardens and galleries of race cars, but the publicity before and after the event was very embarrassing for this city and its organizers, Baltimore Racing Development.  Controversy over ownership of the race , failure to pay the city and sub-contractors an estimated $12 million and the general concern over the distraction the race would cause to downtown residents and workers put a huge black cloud over this event.

The Baltimore Grand Prix was not without benefit to the South Baltimore communities.  Baltimore Racing Development donated $100,000 to city neighborhoods, including $18,000 to Ridgely’s Delight, $12,500 to Harborwalk Townhouse Association, $12,500 to Harborway East Condo Association, $12,500 to Harborway Condo Association, $12,500 to  Otterbein Community Association, $10,000 to Federal Hill Neighborhood Association, $10,000 to Sharp-Leadenhall Planning Council, $6,000 to Federal Hill Main Street and $6,000 to Pigtown Main Street.

Those funds are certainly useful to all of the community groups as Pigtown was able to create great new banners branding their main street “The BLVD: Historic Pigtown.”  However, the funds actually created controversy for the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. The Baltimore Sun took notice as debate over the allocation of those funds eventually led to the removal of several board members.  So I guess Baltimore Racing Development couldn’t even give away money without causing controversy.

Baltimore Business Journal, as well as several local outlets, are reporting that the Grand Prix will return under a group led by Dale Dillon of Dillon Racing LLC, as well as local partners Felix Dawson and Dan Reck of Wilkes Lane Capital.  They have reached a new 5-year contract, which is waiting the approval of the City’s Board of Estimates.  Dillon brings much experience, having helped managed the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and Toronto Grand Prix.  Felix Dawson was rumored to join Baltimore Racing Development to save their contract through invested capital, but clearly he found a better situation for his interests in the race.

So how will this affect us?  50 cents of every ticket purchased will be paid to surrounding impacted communities.  So let’s do some math here –  if conservatively 100,000 tickets are sold that is $50,000 in impact fees paid to our surrounding communities.  So not as good as last year’s $100,000, but Baltimore Racing Development proved they couldn’t manage money very well.

The new contract includes provisions to protect the city from potential losses and nothing has been reported yet about the debts of Baltimore Racing Development.  Let’s hope they pay their subcontractors, which has really put those companies under financial hardship, and hopefully a settlement with the city… but that will probably take a long time to play out in the courts.

South Baltimore residents, what are your thoughts?  Are you happy the race is back? Did it alter your routine last year?  Personally I enjoyed the event and I was able to carry on without a ton of distraction, but my biggest complaint was that our beautiful Inner Harbor was a construction site for several months as they set up and broke down the race.  Do we really need that in our Inner Harbor – the state’s second largest tourist attraction – in its prime months?  What do you think?

 Update:  The contract passed with a 3-2 vote by the Board of Estimates today.  I guess it was the vote by Chuck Norris that broke the tie.


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Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.