City Council could extend Grand Prix contract through 2028 and give organizers voice in future Downtown developments

    Long Beach and race organizers for the city’s annual Grand Prix enter into a new agreement Tuesday night that would shrink the set-up and tear-down window while providing race organizers a seat at the table if future developments interfere with the current track layout.

    The Long Beach City Council is scheduled to vote on the agreement during its first meeting of 2022. The agreement would add five years to the existing agreement with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach that was set to expire in June 2023.

    Race organizers will have four fewer days to set up and take down race infrastructure like concrete railings and grandstands. It will also require the association to pay an annual contribution of $30,000 to help restore streets damaged during the race.

    Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian said that the biggest change to the agreement is that the association will now be given warning of potential developments along the race track, and will be a stakeholder involved in any potential development process in the future.

    “We’ll be consulted from the very beginning of any project, which is important, because in the past without that requirement a developer could have come with a plan that didn’t afford us an opportunity for discussion or input or anything,” Michaelian said.

    The Downtown racetrack spans the waterfront and loops around the Long Beach Convention Center, the Long Beach Arena and the city’s largest undeveloped parcel of land known locally as the “Elephant Lot” because of its history being linked to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

    The Elephant Lot is utilized during the Grand Prix’s race schedule as one of the course’s turns, grandstands for fans and pit areas for some race teams. It’s also been targeted by city officials for potential development since 2018 when Mayor Robert Garcia said the city was in the “visioning process” to decide the best use for the space.

    The lot had been rumored as a potential landing space for sports stadium developments in recent years including the city’s short-lived bid to try and lure the Los Angeles Angels out of Anaheim in 2019.

    The lot is also expected to play a role in the city’s 2028 Olympics plans. The new agreement says race organizers may have to work with Olympic organizers to adjust the 2028 race schedule if the two events have conflicts.

    The city has always had the right to develop portions of the track, including the Elephant Lot, but the new agreement now requires the city to give notice to the association regarding negotiations or development agreements it pursues with periodic notices if a project advances.

    Developers could be required to speak with race organizers about incorporating their projects into the race circuit or allowing the race circuit to be built into or around their project.

    Whatever ends up long-term at the site will require the approval of the California Coastal Commission since the lot is in the coastal zone. But the Grand Prix Association will also have a seat at the table, which Michaelian said is “significant progress.”

    Michaelian declined to speculate on if a development could be built in a way that would allow the race to continue with a similar footprint but said that the long-term extension will give the association more certainty to book future events.

    The 2022 race is scheduled to be held April 8 through April 10, about six months after the pandemic-delayed race was held in September.

    IN PICTURES: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach 2021 is a wrap

    New logistical challenge for race organizers this year: COVID-19 

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    Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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