Miami Grand Prix promoters to seek another loan from city
By Paola Iuspa
Promoters of an auto race in downtown Miami plan to return to the city's sports agency for a loan to build a track.
The loan would be repaid when the Championship Auto Racing Teams joins the event and adds financial support.
Raceworks, promoter and host of the Miami Grand Prix of the Americas scheduled for Oct. 4-6, is to meet with the city's Sports & Exhibition Authority next month to reapply for a $3.2 million loan, said architect and developer Willy Bermello, a principal with Raceworks. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 16.
Raceworks, which had originally planned the race for early April, previously asked the authority for $3.2 million and almost got the funds. But the deal froze when Raceworks, also headed by attorney Peter Yanowitch, announced it was postponing the event to allow Championship Auto Racing Teams, or CART, to participate.
Ferey Kian, the sports authority's director of finance, said his group would consider designing a new loan program or even becoming a race sponsor.
"With CART being part of it," he said, "we could change the loan structure to sponsorship and tap into CART's marketing strategy to attract new events to Miami."
The race rescheduling took place almost simultaneously with a ruling by a Miami-Dade circuit court judge voiding an agreement signed late last year between Miami officials and Raceworks. The judge said the city failed to follow a competitive bidding procedure when awarding the 25-year license to hold the event in Bayfront Park and did not make the agreement revocable, as required.
Homestead-Miami Speedway officials had sued the city to halt the race, saying it would steer business away from their site and that the city failed to give them a chance to bid on hosting the event.
"Homestead wants to avert competition," Mr. Bermello said Tuesday.
While the city and Raceworks last week appealed the judge's ruling to the Third District Court of Appeals, Miami officials are drafting a new license agreement to address flaws pointed out in the court order.
"This is going to be a totally new license agreement for the October race," Mr. Bermello said. "We will go to the judge with this new agreement. We hope we will have his blessing."
He anticipates court actions will be finished by August, allowing Raceworks, which already has the rights to bring the American Le Mans Series to Miami, to "finalize" a deal with CART, he said. Once CART is in, Mr. Bermello said, Raceworks would pay back the authority's loan and continue building the racetrack and promoting the event with CART's support.
Jorge Luis Lopez, with the law firm of Steel Hector & Davis, which is representing the Homestead Speedway, said city officials would need to call for a competitive bid because the judge's order "is still in place" despite the appeals.
"The fundamental issue is, if there is a race in Bayfront Park, a city-owned waterfront property, you need to go through a competitive-bidding process," Mr. Lopez said. "And Homestead is entitled to participate in the process. We believe we can put together a very competitive proposal."
Another group opposing use of Bayfront Park for the race is the city's Parks Advisory Board, which recently voted to oppose using the park as a racetrack.
"It is an inappropriate use of a public park," said Gregory Bush, the board's chair and director of the Institute for Public History at the University of Miami. "When you have two races a year, the park just becomes a racetrack," with no trees and permanent elements.
Mr. Bush - also president of the Urban Environment League, created in 1996 to fight use of public land used to build the American Airlines Arena - has written Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth questioning the legality of using the park for the event.