Wheeler, Fritz announce IndyCar return to Portland
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz welcomed representatives of the Verizon IndyCar Series to Portland on Friday to announce that the professional open wheel racing series will return to Portland in 2018, with a three-year contract for races in 2019 and 2020.
"The return of IndyCar racing to Portland will give us terrific international exposure, a great deal of revenue, new jobs and an exciting experience for race fans," Wheeler said at an Oct. 12 press conference outside City Hall that featured an IndyCar raced by Graham Rahal, who was also present.
Commissioner Fritz focused on the economic benefit, while expressing awareness of neighborhood impacts.
"It is very exciting to see IndyCar racing coming back to the Rose City," Fritz said. "An event of this magnitude means $12 million to $15 million in revenue to the city, scores of jobs, and an exciting weekend of racing with new cars using clean-burning ethanol for fuel. I also acknowledge that there will likely be noise impacts in nearby neighborhoods. We will work closely with the organizers and the neighborhoods to mitigate the impact."
The new race will be called the Portland Grand Prix, and will be held on Labor Day weekend, August 31 to September 2, 2018. The Portland race will be promoted by Green Savoree Racing Promotions, Inc. The company also promotes IndyCar's races in St. Petersburg, Fla., Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and in Toronto, Ontario.
"There's obviously a deep passion for motorsports in this part of the country, and it's been obvious to us as we've put this event together," said Green Savoree CEO Kim Green . "IndyCar races drive economic impact and create jobs. For instance, our race in St. Petersburg has an impact of over $45 million. We're looking to do the same for this community."
Because Portland has not hosted an Indianapolis-style race since 2007, some updates to the Portland International Raceway facility will be needed to bring the race course up to current FIA and IndyCar standards. IndyCar and Green Savoree have committed to bear the expense of necessary upgrades, and no investment of public money will be required from the City of Portland.
"There are safety-related items that have to take place," said PIR Manager E.C. Mueller. "Since these cars were here last some of the requirements have changed. We know that the fence height requirements have changed, so we'll be adding fencing and going through a list of track improvements. There's a stair-step model where we need to complete some items each year. We'll be working closely with Green Savoree and the FIA, but we already have a very safe race track and we're proud of that."
Portland hosted its first race for Indy cars in 1984, and the race was an annual event through 2007, when financial difficulties and internal strife forced the ChampCar World Series out of business. Indianapolis-style racing is now managed by IndyCar, and is on much firmer footing.
Green Savoree has not yet finalized the full schedule for the Portland event weekend, but the series is usually accompanied by several minor-league pro racing series that serve as training grounds for IndyCar drivers, and associated attractions are now a regular part of major professional race weekends.
"Nowadays most people don't want to buy a ticket and just sit in a seat all day," Mueller explained. "We'll have options for people who want a grandstand seat and we'll have options for people who want to do something with more hospitality and entertainment.
The website for the event is www.portlandgp.com. Ticket and schedule information will be posted there as details are finalized.