City Council extends Grand Prix contract through 2028

Long Beach and organizers of the city’s annual Grand Prix race agreed to extend the event’s previous contract through 2028 and allow race organizers a say in future developments that may interfere with the current track layout.

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to have City Manager Tom Modica amend the agreement to extend the contract with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach to June 30, 2028. The existing agreement with the association was set to expire in June 2023.

“The Grand Prix extension that has been approved by the City Council is the result of extensive discussions with City leadership that we believe has resulted in benefits to all parties concerned,” Jim Michaelian, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO, said today in a statement. “The Grand Prix has always been a very strong community event and this agreement just amplifies the unique relationship with the City of Long Beach going forward. Our thanks to all those who assisted in getting this done.”

In a previous statement, 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.

Michaelian added that that 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.”

The Grand Prix is a signature event in Long Beach that is traditionally held in April and typically draws more than 185,000 fans.

The event’s 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 Elephant 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.”

With the new contract, race organizers will also 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.

The 2021 race was pushed to late September as race organizers hoped to host the race during a time of the year where large crowds were allowed to gather with limited restrictions. In October, the City Council agreed to keep parts of the Grand Prix track up to cut back on set up time and costs.

Five months removed from the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, roughly 1,000 concrete rails still remain in place on Shoreline Drive, Seaside Way and in the Elephant Lot.

Organizers said in October that they would be leaving up about half of the 2,400 concrete blocks it put in place for the race in September. This was expected to save race organizers about three days of setup time and around $89,000, some of which will be used to resurface city streets defaced by race activity.

Tickets are already on sale for the 2022 Grand Prix that is scheduled for April 8-10. The event will be headlined by the NTT IndyCar Series, as well as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The weekend event will also include the Super Drift Challenge under the lights on Friday and Saturday nights, plus doubleheader action from Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SuperTrucks, and a new event in 2022, the Porsche Carrera Cup North America.

Tickets range from $37 for Friday general admission to $168 for a three-day ticket that includes weekend reserved seating in grandstand upper levels.

Reporter Jason Ruiz contributed to this story.

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Fernando Haro is the Long Beach Post's breaking news and public safety reporter.
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