Construction for the third annual Grand Prix of Baltimore began Aug. 6 as the first concrete barrier for the race track was placed just paces away from the doors of the Baltimore Convention Center.
Race managers announced a series of changes to the event that will take place Labor Day weekend, including more entertainment and cooler spaces for family fun.
“We had 90 days last year to put a race on. This time we had a full year,” said managing partner J.P. Grant, of Race On LLC. “We promised a better event this year, so we’re trying to deliver a better event with better values.”
Attendees this year will have a plethora of activities to engage in from rock climbing to wine tasting.
“We figured out, from the last two years, that it’s pretty hot on Labor Day weekend. This year we’re moving the family fun zone inside,” said Grant, standing just outside the Pratt Street convention center where in-door activities will take place.
“We’re going to have the Boy Scouts of America doing a soap box derby. We’re going to do rock climbing indoors, have a Budweiser Beer Zone for adults and broadcasts from 98 ROCK.”
Ticket prices have also changed this year with the introduction of tiered pricing.
“Adults can buy general admission tickets, but any child under 12 can come in for free. On Friday, we have ‘Five Dollar Friday’ for students,” he said.
Grant said that community engagement and maximizing opportunities for Baltimore business owners and workers are goals for this year’s event.
“The ticketing company is local and the public relations firm is local,” he told the AFRO just moments before the start of a downtown news conference to announce the beginning of construction.
“We have minority and women-owned businesses as vendors and the fencing company is minority owned,” he said.
Critics blasted Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore Racing Development, the company responsible for putting on the inaugural race, for financial woes that resounded long after the race car engines shut off.
Millions in city fees, taxes and monies owed to local businesses went unpaid by Baltimore Racing Development, jeopardizing the future of the race. The company had a lien filed against it and eventually told investors they would not be repaid.
By December 2011, city officials announced that they would be terminating business with the company. A second company was chosen and dismissed before Race On LLC signed on with only a few months to get the 2012 race organized.
“Last year, our main goal was to stabilize the race and make sure it happened,” said Tim Mayer, general manager of the Grand Prix. “This year, our number one goal is to have everyone that comes to the race walk away saying ‘That was worth every cent.’”
Tommy Milner, one of the award-winning drivers who will take to the course for the Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 event, told reporters he is excited to be in Charm City.
“This is a great place to race,” he said. “You have 12 turns in two miles. It’s a difficult track. You have a nice, long straightaway here on Pratt Street where we see upwards of 150 miles per hour. There are hairpin turns, some nice fun rhythm sections, two high-speed sweepers to finish the lap off. There are some bumpy spaces, some smooth sections, and some very wide open spaces for lots of cars, along with narrow spots.
“For a driver, you want a race track that offers lots of passing opportunities and that’s exactly what you have here in Baltimore, which is not very common for street tracks.”
The track will take 21 days to complete, down from last year’s 31-day construction period. Mayer said construction will take place at night and at varied intervals to minimize impact on city residents.
The race will air on more than 160 channels around the world, officials said.