TORONTO, Feb. 28 /CNW/ - While a glimmer of hope remains that the Grand
Prix of Toronto will be on track for the 24th consecutive year, event
organizers are also bracing for the possibility the popular race might have to
go on hiatus in 2008. Key supporters from the business community are rallying
behind the event which is a keystone of the summer festival circuit and an
important economic driver for the city of Toronto.
"We are still working very hard with all of our partners, locally as well
as in the IRL, to keep Toronto on the schedule for 2008 and beyond," said
Grand Prix of Toronto president, Charlie Johnstone. "Talks are ongoing and at
this stage I don't know how everything is going to play out. Realistically, we
have to be prepared for anything."
The absence of the Grand Prix of Toronto, Ontario's largest annual
sporting event, would have significant repercussions in several areas. The
event attracts an average of 160,000 spectators on race weekend, and the
economic impact of the Grand Prix and the weeklong festivities surrounding it
is a reported $50 million. More than $40 million of these expenditures are the
result of initial attendance and Grand Prix operating expenses.
The Grand Prix itself generates some $30 million in direct spending in
the Greater Toronto area, and its economic activity is equivalent to about 600
full-time jobs. The event has also raised more than $5.75 million for local
children's charities over the years through the Grand Prix Charitable
"Losing the event would hurt a lot of people - restaurants, hotels,
businesses, suppliers, retailers and others who depend on the spin-offs of the
event and the huge amount of people it attracts," said Terry Mundell, the
president of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association. Mundell stated that "all
three levels of government have made stimulating tourism one of their main
concerns, and losing the race would be a devastating blow for the industry."
Joe Pantalone, Deputy Mayor of Toronto and Chair, Board of Governors of
Exhibition Place, where the Grand Prix of Toronto is run, is another strong
supporter of the event.
"The Grand Prix is one of the longest-standing tenants at Exhibition
Place and we are deeply proud to be associated with a first-class organization
that has become such an integral part of the summer calendar of activities in
the city," remarked Pantalone. "We are tremendously supportive of this event
and will do whatever we can to help the Grand Prix in its efforts."
Last week's unification of the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing
League has produced a single open-wheel series, which is an extremely positive
development for motorsports fans. However, the amalgamation of the two series
has created a number of logistical problems, including which races in the
former Champ Car World Series will be retained for 2008.
"Grand Prix has a global following and attracts both visitors and media
from around the world," said David Whitaker, President and CEO of Tourism
Toronto. "The race and all the events surrounding it have become a Toronto
summer signature and we are eager to see Toronto become a fixture in the
future Indy circuit for many years."
The Toronto race, scheduled for July 4-6, is currently in limbo because
contractual commitments with existing venues such as the race at Watkins Glen
are making it difficult for the unified series to find a spot for Toronto on
this year's schedule under such a tight timeline.
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