Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach gets 3-year extension, then Formula One could return
The contract for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be extended through 2018, according to the race’s organizer, but the city will open up bidding for the event in a move that could bring Formula One back to Southern California.
Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association, said Wednesday he was informed of the three-year extension for the IndyCar race after the City Council met in closed session Tuesday night.
The extension will have to be confirmed in open session, which Michaelian said he was told would happen “within a few weeks.”
“This is precisely what we wanted,” said Michaelian, who said both sides agreed to the terms in principal. “They have every right to explore other options, but by the same token we have the certainty of conducting the event through 2018. That’s important because we have lots of sponsorship agreements.”
Long Beach’s current contract with the Grand Prix Association expires June 30, 2015.
Deputy City Manager Tom Modica would not confirm or deny any extension or bidding process but said the council provided a direction Tuesday night.
“We will have an item for public review when negotiations are complete,” Modica said.
The agreement allows the city time to conduct a formal proposal request process, opening the door for a Formula One return and other challengers.
Chris Pook, who helped found the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1975, has been hired by Formula One owner Bernie Ecclestone to bring back the series that ran in Long Beach from 1976 until 1983. Ecclestone has said he intends to bid on the contract if the process is open.
Pook, who had not heard from the city about the agreement, said he was extremely happy with the news.
“I’m not knocking the IndyCar race, but Formula One will bring the economic value the city enjoys,” including TV viewership, booked hotel rooms and other economic benefits, Pook said, who first brought racing to Long Beach 39 years ago.
Pook also responded to recent reports that putting on a Formula One Race would be too costly.
“We wouldn’t be talking about this if it wasn’t financially successful,” Pook said.
Michaelian, who has touted the event’s sustainability and its ability to draw more than 170,000 people to the event, didn’t seem worried about the bidding process.
“We’re a known quantity,” Michaelian said. “I feel confident that the city will continue its partnership with the Grand Prix Association for years to come.”
The 40th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will run April 11-13 and will feature several races, including the Toyota Pro-Celebrity and IndyCar races.