As this year's lackluster Baltimore Grand Prix wound to a damp, cloudy and under-attended close, its future seems somewhat uncertain (which may be good news to many Baltimoreans who were puzzled by having a significant portion of our city turned into a race at great expense and hassle to residents whose leaders tell us things like we can't afford fire houses or rec centers, but we can afford to lose millions of dollars on an entertainment that has no inherent or understandable connection to the city itself).
The Grand Prix doesn't just have an impact on businesses downtown, but throughout the whole city. And in other neighborhoods, it's a significant negative impact.
Early last week, while running arrands in the counties near Baltimore (Anne Arundel, Howard, and Baltimore) prior to the race, I saw a number digital display highway signs operated by the State Highway Administration, warning:
Race Event 8/31 - 9/2 Baltimore - Expect Delays.
The effect this has on your average commuter reading the sign is the same as being told "Stay away from Baltimore from 8/31-9/2", even though a majority of the city did not have road closures or delays.
It's almost like SHA wanted all of Baltimore to suffer for the race (and businesses in some neighborhoods did). A more accurate road sign would warn travelers that there was a race event DOWNTOWN or in the INNER HARBOR instead of all of Baltimore.
This Grand Prix nonsense may not continue next year. The Baltimore Sun reports:
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard ... said he was pleased with the crowd and quality of the race, .... He would not guarantee a return, though, as he is still finalizing next year's schedule; that includes negotiating how much Grant's company, Race On, will have to pay.
Race On refused to discuss ticket sales, as did Andretti Sports Marketing, which handled promotion. Representatives for the Baltimore police and fire departments also said they would not comment on the size of the crowd.
Part of that seems like a negotiation stance to pay the city as little as possible, but it should be noted that refusing to comment on crowd size IS a comment on crowd size.
But if the Grand Prix does return, perhaps SHA could make their road signs more accurate and less punishing to the whole city.