St. Pete City Council extends Grand Prix contract
After an intense hour-long debate Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council approved extending the contract with race promoters for the Grand Prix through 2020.
The 7-1 vote came after council member Jim Kennedy proposed that the city take over the race by forming a sports corporation. Kennedy's plan failed by a 5-3 vote. Karl Nurse and Wengay Newton joined Kennedy in that losing effort.
Only Kennedy voted against contract extension.
Green Savoree Racing, which has organized the annual race since 2004, set March dates through the next three years and offered $1 to the city for every visitor over 140,000. Last year, the race drew 160,000.
In September, council members had complained that earllier dates for the 2016 race had inconvenienced waterfront businesses, which had already planned events.
Mayor Rick Kriseman said that the contract was fair and criticized council members who had suggested that the race promoters weren't paying the city enough.
"If we have a problem with businesses being successful in this city. I have a problem with that," said a visibly annoyed Kriseman.
Council chairman Charlie Gerdes said cities do many things well, but they should steer clear of operating a race that is seen around the world.
"It just seems to me to be a real opportunity to screw things up," Gerdes said.
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