Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

St. Petersburg City Council extends Grand Prix through 2020

Juan Pablo Montoya wins at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2015. The City Council extended the race contract through 2020. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Published Nov. 13, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council decided not to fiddle with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, approving a contract extension Thursday that will keep the IndyCar race roaring along the waterfront through 2020.

But the hourlong discussion took a few detours.

Council member Jim Kennedy, who proposed his own plan to resolve the stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays last month, unveiled a proposal for the city to strike its own deal with IndyCar and operate the race itself.

"It's an opportunity for the city of St. Petersburg to control its own destiny," Kennedy said. "This is not about accepting the status quo. It's about getting the best deal for the city."

Council member Wengay Newton argued along similar lines, saying the race promoters, Green Savoree St. Petersburg LLC, should pay $1 to the city for each person who buys a ticket.

Under the deal negotiated by Mayor Rick Kriseman, the promoters offered to pay $1 for each attendee over 140,000. This year, the race drew 160,000, a record since it debuted in 2005.

A visibly angry Kriseman said IndyCar had no interest in partnering with the city, and he cautioned against the city assuming all the financial risk.

"If there's a rainout, our taxpayers are on the hook," he said.

And he pushed back against Newton's suggestions that the promoters weren't giving the city a fair deal.

"If we have a problem with businesses being successful in this city, I have a problem with that," Kriseman said.

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.

In September, Kevin Savoree reacted angrily when council members questioned why the company wouldn't open its books and pondered whether the city had outgrown the race, which shuts down some waterfront neighborhoods for several days while the track is being set up.

On Thursday, city staff highlighted several compromises reached with the promoters to extend the contract for three more years after it expires in 2017.

This summer, waterfront anchors the Salvador Dalí Museum and the Mahaffey Theater complained about next year's race being moved up two weeks in March. To help avoid future confusion, the promoters agreed to set the March dates for the next three years.

Aside from the attendance-based profit sharing, Green Savoree also said it would get the track ready four days more quickly than in past years.

City staff presented a study completed in October that showed the race had an economic impact of $48.3 million. The nationally televised race brings an estimated $5 million in marketing value to the city, said Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development.

After Kennedy's plan failed by a 5-3 vote, with Karl Nurse and Newton joining him, the council voted on Kriseman's deal, passing it 7-1 with only Kennedy voting no.

Nurse said he was comfortable with the deal. He had originally raised questions about the contract.

"Life is a compromise. This is clearly a better situation for the city," Nurse said.

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

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. State Rep. Chris Sprowls, 35, addresses the Florida House of Representatives, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla., after the Republican was elected to lead the 120-member chamber. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP
    The Pinellas Republican did not shy away from the wedge issues of the day, wading into 2020 presidential politics, abortion and climate change.
  2. The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times] JOSH FIALLO | TIMES  |  JOSH FIALLO | Times
    Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
  3. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.
  4. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    Gov. Ron DeSantis also had set a priority of getting more youngsters ready for kindergarten.
  5. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  6. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  7. Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano removed a Sept. 11 Facebook post after strong public criticism of its contents. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Commissioner Jack Mariano shares a 9/11 social media post that people found offensive. He takes it down. Some want his resignation.
  8. She’s the fifth candidate to announce her campaign for the GOP primary.
  9. Rep. Chris Sprowls, R- Palm Harbor.  [SCOTT KEELER  |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    At 2 p.m. today, the Republicans of the Florida House are scheduled to elect the Palm Harbor state representative to serve as speaker for the 2021 - 2022 term.
  10. Students and community activists marched in Tampa last year after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The attack killed 17 people and gave rise to Florida’s school guardian law, which this year was changed to allow classroom teachers to be armed. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    "This is the dumb, backwards stuff that we do here,” one Florida lawmaker said.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement