Study finds Grand Prix impact lower than promised

Race organizers don't agree with economic study

BALTIMORE - It's been just over a month since the first ever Baltimore Grand Prix, and now supporters and opponents are crunching the numbers.

A new study released on Tuesday finds that the race didn't generate nearly as much money as the people of Baltimore were promised.

At a news conference on June 2, 2010, Governor O'Malley said: "The Grand Prix will support 400 jobs and produce an estimated 60 to 75 million dollars in economic impact."

And Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said: "This event will be a game-changer for Baltimore."

Organizers say more than 150,000 people attended.

But the study, put together by UMBC economic professor Dennis Coates, and University of Maryland kinesiology professor Michael Friedman is titled "Not a Game Changer.

Data in the study came from interviews with 210 people who attended the race.

"What we did is we went and asked people -- how much are you going to spend? How much have you spent? Are you staying in a hotel? And what we found is that almost nobody was staying in hotels, and they weren't spending much," Coates said.

From that survey, the professors estimate that race-related spending over Labor Day weekend came to about $25-million, and only about $10-million of that from out-of-state visitors -- far less than the $60-to-75 million Governor O'Malley talked about.

"i don't think that the general population of the city, other than having a big party, benefitted in any meaningful way," Coates said.

Tuesday night, a spokesman for Mayor Rawlings-Blake questioned the sample size --210 people, out of 150,000, and added that the mayor's "game changer" comment was referring to the impact on Baltimore, of positive national media exposure from the race.

"Do I think they're going to say it was a good thing? Absolutely," Coates said. "They already are. They were before they even had any information; getting the information isn't going to change their mind."

The grad students taking those surveys were outside of the attendance gates.

The mayor's spokesman said that means that none of the 210 respondents were from the hotels that are inside of the race course.

Also the head of the "Visit Baltimore" group said people should wait for that organization's more complete report before passing judgment on the success of the Baltimore Grand Prix, saying the "Not a Game Changer" didn't take every kind of economic impact into account.

Drivers and teams also raved about the race course, despite comments about certain sections needing improvement, stating it was one of the most challenging courses they had driven and that made for an exciting weekend.

The Baltimore Racing Development organization has a five year contract to host the Baltimore Grand Prix and both IndyCar and the American Le Mans Series have the event scheduled for Labor Day Weekend 2012 with racing starting on August 31st.

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