Montreal to foot $24M bill for Formula E race, but other cities pay nothing to host same event

This summer Montreal will host the Formula E for its first time, costing taxpayers $24 million to host the electric-car racing event — but other hosting cities around the world are not charging its taxpayers a cent.

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Formula E cars drive into a corner during the Formula E Championship race in Beijing in 2014. Montreal will host the event for its first time this summer. (Barry Huang/Reuters)

This summer Montreal will host the Formula E for the first time, costing taxpayers $24 million to host the electric-car racing event.

But the cities of Berlin, Paris, New York, Monaco, Marrakesh and Hong Kong, which are also hosting the same event this 2016-2017 season, are not spending any public money to do so, according to a Radio-Canada report.

Other world cities

In Paris, the mayor's office said that no public money has been used for the race.

"The Paris ePrix is an event that is entirely taken care of by its organizers and by sponsorship, and that includes the renovation of the pavement [where the race will take place]," city spokesperson Matthieu Lamarre told Radio-Canada.

The same goes for New York City.

"The city is not granting any subsidy to the Formula E, but we are very pleased to be a partner. It's an exciting event," said Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

In Brussels, the event had to be cancelled because it coincided with a major festival and with the vacation time of many residents. Officials did not want to block city roads during this period.

Belgian organizers, who were never able to find a major sponsor for the event, then turned to nearby cities in the region of Brussels, but no city officials wanted to pay for the race.

Where is the $24M going?

The race will take place in the streets of the east end of downtown Montreal. Cars will race at 225 kilometres per hour along stretches of René-Lévesque Boulevard, Papineau Avenue, Viger Avenue and Berri Street.

Here is the breakdown of the costs (figures are rounded):

  • Building and dismantling of the track: $9M.
  • Nomination fees for the City of Montreal: $151,000.
  • Approval of the track: $226,000.
  • First payment of race fees: $1.5M.
  • Salaries and other costs to organization responsible for the Montreal, c'est électrique event: $250,000.
  • Protection of the track: $7.5M.
  • Citizen compensation for parking: $80,000.
  • Road work: $4.4M.
  • Engineering services: $450,000.
  • Work inspection: $250,000.

In addition to these costs, the City of Montreal is also acting as a guarantor for a $10-million line of credit for Montreal, c'est électrique, the organization responsible for the event. If the group is unable to pay the line of credit, the city will reimburse the amount.

"Every city has a different business model. The one chosen by Montreal made it possible to maximize the success of the organization of this major event," said Marc-André Gosselin, spokesperson for Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

"It shows that Montreal is a great racing metropolis. This is a long-term agreement."

The city's Official Opposition party says sponsors should have been brought on.

"The question is not whether [the race] is a good idea or a bad idea. It's to try to understand why Denis Coderre did not succeed in getting this event without involving the money of the Montrealers," said Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante.

The event in Montreal will take place on July 29 and 30, for the final two races of Formula E's 2016-17 season.

Translated from a story by Radio-Canada's François Cormier and Nathalie Lemieux