NEWS: City fails to reach deal to bring Indy Car to RI

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Wikimedia Commons Image.

By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News

Back in the fall of 2013, Mark Perrone, President of New England Grand Prix, said they were just “crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s” for a Providence IndyCar race.

Now, 14 months later, plans for a Providence race have stalled. So what happened?

“Basically, we made every effort,” said a dejected-sounding Perrone reached by telephone earlier this month. “And we were delayed a year.”

Perrone said the economics of a deal with the city just didn’t work.

“I spent a lot of time money and energy down there,” said Perrone. “We moved on.”

Originally, a downtown Providence IndyCar race was planned for August of 2015, but now, a New England race is set to happen in Boston in 2016.

“We thought that we would have a great event down there,” said Perrone of Providence.

Ann Gooding, spokeswoman for the Providence’s Department of Economic Development said the city and the producers of the race could not come to an agreement on “safety and infrastructure” measures including routes, and pedestrian and vehicle safety.

But sources tell WPRO that another factor came into play: campaign season. As negotiations were underway, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras was in the thick of campaign season and his hotly contested Democratic primary race for governor against Clay Pell, and now Governor-Elect Gina Raimondo.  But Taveras denies claims that his race for governor put the brakes on IndyCar.

“Not at all. As a matter of fact, I have continued to focus on everything that goes on in the city and did so while I was a candidate and I’m doing so now, but I’m also – now that there’s a mayor elect — I’m mindful of making those decisions, unless they’re absolutely necessary,” Taveras said. “It would have been great to make an announcement as a candidate, but if it’s not fiscally prudent and if it’s not fiscally responsible, then it’s not good for the city, so from my perspective that’s what we need to look at.”

Perrone said he would not play the blame game for the deal falling though.

“At the end of the day it didn’t seem to work for either side,” said Perrone, who noted that the event could have provided an estimated $40-$50 million economic stimulus to the city.

“We really enjoyed the folks we worked with,” said Perrone, who said the idea for a Providence IndyCar race isn’t dead yet. “Never say ‘never.’ I think Providence is a great place and a great town.”

Taveras said it will be up to the Mayor-Elect, Jorge Elorza, to pursue another potential race in the future.

“From a city perspective we’ve got to do something that makes financial sense for the city, and at this point in time, it’s something that the next mayor will have to look at, because I don’t want to make a commitment that will have a financial impact in the city,” said Taveras. “It really is about making sure that it works not only for the IndyCar series but also for the city of providence and that’s been the challenge.”

Elorza did not return requests for comment on future Providence IndyCar races.

With reports from Andrew Augustus.