Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson is interested in doing his part to bring Formula One back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for years to come.
Peterson, who attended Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix, said the international motor sports event is too valuable to the city not to assist the Speedway in its pursuit of a new contract.
Options from the original contract in 2000 expired after Sunday's race, won by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.
"They've never asked (for help)," Peterson said of Speedway officials. "If we were asked, we'd be open to getting involved."
Studies have estimated the local economic impact of the USGP at more than $100 million per year. The race has been held annually since 2000.
Peterson said he understands as many as two-thirds of the fans who attend the race are from other countries. Information about Sunday's event is not yet known.
"If that's true, that's a huge impact," Peterson said. "That's 'new' money, which is very important to the city."
Tony George, the Speedway's chief executive officer, plans to travel to London in the coming weeks to discuss a new contract with F-1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. Industry estimates put Ecclestone's asking price to be somewhere between $14 million and $20 million per year.
While admitting surprise at Peterson's offer, George said he is not currently considering asking the city to contribute to his family-owned business. George's grandfather, Tony Hulman, built the company on the foundation it would avoid using public funds.
IMS president Joie Chitwood said there has been no deviation from that.
"We have never asked for any assistance; we have never received any assistance," Chitwood said.
The very thought of taxpayer dollars being spent to subsidize the likes of Bernie Ecclestone is outrageous. Ecclestone and his series have clearly demonstrated in the past a callous and arrogant disregard to F-1's U.S. fans, most notably last year when they failed to manage a tire issue which resulted in only 6 cars competing in the Grand Prix event. Let's face it, F-1 is a rich man's event. The only reason Mayor Peterson wants to give away our taxpayer dollars to subsidize this event is so that he has another weekend of the year when he can escape the average Joes he looks his nose down at and hobnob with the super rich and celebrities who are drawn to the Grand Prix.
The economic impact from the race is realized by a handful of downtown hotels, about two dozen restaurants and Simon's Circle Centre Mall. If it's that important of an event for these select businesses, let them cough up the money. Taxpayers are already forking over a $1 billion for the new Colts stadium and convention center expansion, which disproportionately benefits this group of businesses.
And Mayor Peterson, start addressing the real problems this city faces. In case you haven't notice, you have the worst public transportation system in the country. You have a century-old sewer system that is polluting our waterways. You have the worst schools in the country. You've done nothing to solve the police and fire pension time-bombs. Get some time away from your rich friends and do something for the little guy for at least once in your life.