1. News

St. Petersburg council pumps the brakes on Grand Prix

Juan Pablo Montoya wins the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published Sep. 11, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has been held since 2005, but a combustible City Council meeting Thursday raised questions about whether the popular IndyCar event is, at least politically, running out of gas.

Council members questioned why Green Savoree Racing Promotions won't open its books so they can see how much money is being made from the annual three-day event. They asked why the city can't get more advance notice of when the race will be held each year. And they pondered whether the city had perhaps outgrown the event that drew 160,000 to the waterfront in March.

The race promoters were even compared to the Tampa Bay Rays — not a good omen considering the long stalemate between the council and that Major League Baseball franchise.

Thursday's line of questioning from the council ticked off race promoters, especially when several members suggested putting the contract out for bid when it expires in 2017.

"Good luck with that," replied Kevin Savoree, co-founder of the Grand Prix's promotion company.

The sparring threw into question how the council might vote next month on Mayor Rick Kriseman's plans to extend Green Savoree's contract by three years.

Council members have expressed their displeasure at next year's race being moved to March 11-13, two weeks earlier than this year's event. So have waterfront institutions like the Salvador Dalí Museum and the Mahaffey Theater.

Council member Karl Nurse engineered Thursday's meeting with the purpose to delve into details of the city's contract with Green Savoree.

It didn't take long before things got tense.

Council member Jim Kennedy compared the promoters to the Rays, saying he had no idea if they made money or what their risk was.

"Are we getting the best deal?" Kennedy asked.

The response from the promoters was succinct: Try and do better.

"If you guys want us, you want us," Savoree said. "If you don't want us, we understand. This is business. And over the years, promoters around this country and around this world have come and gone like yo-yos."

City staffers backed the promoters, saying not many groups exist that can pull off a complicated event like the Grand Prix.

But council members bristled when given what some perceived as an ultimatum.

"I hate to get the scare tactics," said Wengay Newton.

City development administrator Alan DeLisle said the mayor wasn't going to seek other bids. And any bad blood risked killing an event that brings in millions of dollars at the cost of a relatively modest $150,000 city subsidy to promoters, he said.

"You don't want quality to walk away," DeLisle said.

The city is considering an economic impact study to determine how much money the race generates in the community, DeLisle said, asserting that similar events around the country net tens of millions.

Some council members said they were satisfied by the promoter's explanation about why the race will be earlier next year. In 2016, the third weekend in March is the popular 12 Hours of Sebring race. The following weekend is Easter. The Mahaffey Theater had a conflict in the first weekend of April, Savoree said.

But others indicated they were willing to play hardball. Council member Amy Foster said that the city has progressed in visibility in the past decade and now has its own momentum. She said she wasn't sure the Grand Prix was "the only thing" that made the city relevant these days.

"I do feel, frankly, that we're a different city than when this race started," she said.

Contact Charlie Frago at or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.


  1. In body camera video released by police, two officers search the home from the outside with flashlights before one shouts, "Put your hands up, show me your hands." One shot is then fired through a window. Photo from video/Associated Press
    The shooting occurred after a neighbor called the police non-emergency line to report that the front door to the home was open.
  2. In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, residents welcome Syrian soldiers shortly after they entered the northern town of Tal Tamr on Monday, Oct 14, 2019. The move toward Tal Tamr came a day after Syria's Kurds said Syrian government forces agreed to help them fend off Turkey's invasion — a major shift in alliances that came after President Donald Trump ordered all U.S. troops withdrawn from the northern border area amid the rapidly deepening chaos. AP
    The announcement of a deal between Syria’s Kurds and its government is a major shift in alliances that came after President Donald Trump ordered all U.S.
  3. Alachua County school superintendent Karen Clarke welcomes the crowd at a "listening session" Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 to discuss changes in the Florida's education standards. A similar session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at Jefferson High, 4401 W Cypress St. in Tampa. The Florida Channel
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  4. Tampa City Council members don't agree on much when it comes to the city's eight Community Redevelopment Areas. CHARLIE FRAGO  |  Charlie Frago
    Some City Council members say the popular redevelopment tools are unfair to other neighborhoods.
  5. Central High School student Samantha Lewis, 17, shows her Angus Cross heffer Annabell, 1, Saturday morning during the Open Beef Show at the Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show at the fairgrounds. The fair and livestock show will run through April 16. For more information, call 352-796-4552 or visit HERNANDO TODAY PHOTO BY HAYLEY M  |  Hernando Today
    Hernando County Fair Association plans meet with skepticism from county commissioners and Brooksville City Council members.
  6. The graves of Caroline and Thomas Hicks are among nine found to have been moved out of the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery along North Florida Avenue. They were reburied in Memorial Park, believed to be the second African-American cemetery in Tampa. JAMES BORCHUCK  |
    The story of the pioneer Tampa family might help explain the disappearance of the place where some 800 African-Americans were buried.
  7. Pasco County Property Appraiser Gary Joiner (left) and County Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. (R) are both Republicans running for Pasco Property Appraiser in 2020. Handout photo
    State law requires him to resign effective November 2020, opening up an election for the District 4 Pasco County Commission seat.
  8. Families enjoy carnival rides at the 2018 Rattlesnake Festival at the Pasco County Fairgrounds. The festival returns Oct. 18-20, kicking off with a concert featuring the Bellamy Brothers on Friday and food, entertainment and educational activities throughout the weekend. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Musicals, art exhibits and other things to do in Pasco and Hernando counties
  9. Festival goers move through the midway during the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church's annual Ethnic Festival. This year's festival will be Oct. 17-20 at the church on Spring Hill Drive at Coronado Drive. Tampa Bay Times | 2010
    The 28th-annual Ethnic Festival returns to St. Joan of Arc.
  10. Legislative delegation meeting allows lawmakers to hear requests from local elected officials and civic organizations