Despite three years of red ink, the Edmonton Indy can turn a profit, the race's new promoter says.
François Dumontier and his team from Montreal-based Octane Racing Group have an agreement in principle with the City of Edmonton to take over operating the event.
Octane staff, including Dumontier, took in the race over the weekend and already have some suggestions for improvement.
"We came in from the airport yesterday, and one of my comments was, we didn't know they were having a race," Dumontier said Sunday.
He said he likes the energy he sensed from race fans but he'd like to see more involvement from local businesses. To that end, he said, Octane is going to open an Edmonton office and be in the community year-round.
Dumontier would also like to see the race become a city-wide event rather than one based solely at the racing venue, the downtown airport.
City lost more than $10 million
The City of Edmonton, through its event promoting agency Northlands, has run the race since 2008. It lost $9.2 million on the event in its first two years and expects an estimated $2 million to $3 million shortfall this year on a $10-million budget.
Dumontier, whose company also operates the Montreal Grand Prix F1 race and a Montreal NASCAR event, said those numbers surprise him.
"I was amazed when I looked at the numbers that the city provided to me," he said. "Let me tell you that it's costing more to Northlands than for me to do an F1 race in Montreal. So, there's a lot of things that we're going to take a look at on the expense side."
The event can turn a profit, Dumontier said. And it will get help from the city. As part of the three-year pact between Octane and Edmonton, the city will become a race sponsor through 2013. City councillors were initially expecting they would have to commit about $1 million a year, but reports suggest the total figure will be closer to $5.5 million.
Work on next year's race begins immediately, Dumontier said. He said he expects to sign a new deal with the Indy Racing League, the series sanctioning body, in the next few weeks to make official Octane's position as race promoter.
"We're very confident it will be executed as a three-year deal," Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division, said at a Sunday news conference with Dumontier.