Continued from part 1 Q: Would you consider trying to give rebirth to the street course that the defunct Champ Car boys used? TERRY ANGSTADT: We've taken a very brief look at that. We think that -- it's kind of challenging in particular in...
Continued from part 1
Q: Would you consider trying to give rebirth to the street course that the defunct Champ Car boys used?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We've taken a very brief look at that. We think that -- it's kind of challenging in particular in that community. But we're always open to listen to new ideas.
Q: You've moved your banquet here to run, I believe, with SEMA or close to SEMA. With the championship race going to Miami, is it safe to assume that the banquet would probably go to Miami next year?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That's what we're looking at, yes.
Q: Kevin, you talked about the historic significance of the Toronto Indy race, 21 years with uninterrupted until this year, and your co-owner, pretty successful there. How close are you to naming a title sponsor? And could you talk a little bit further on how the planning is going for next year?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Well, obviously the historic significance of this place is just incredible. I mean driving around the circuit this morning, there's just so many great memories. It's a fantastic facility. And we look forward to even making it better. Obviously the competition has always been fierce here and walking in and seeing that picture of (Bobby) Rahal. I called Mike (Andretti) and said, 'What do you want me to do with it?' We all had a laugh about that.
And obviously Mike won seven of those races up here. So he had a lot of success here, and he considers getting this event on the calendar as big as any of those wins. As for the title sponsor, we've really worked hard on trying to identify a partner who is going to have the same enthusiasm, the same drive that Michael had when he won those seven races.
We want somebody who just wants to really get out there, get their name out there, work with us in the market, and we're pretty close. We're actually in draft stage of a contract with a title partner, and obviously over these last few months that's one of the big things we've been working at is trying to identify that right partner, because we really believe in our model that if you have the right title sponsor, great things are going to happen.
And hopefully before the month of August is over we'll have an announcement on that.
Q: Given that this announcement is being made in July, how much does that help you get ready for next year?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Well, obviously it's a big help. It's one thing for us in the corporate community because Michael Andretti's name and the Andretti name itself carries so much weight here in the Toronto market, that we were having great success even without the date being announced.
I think we have that kind of credibility as Andretti Green. But certainly now that it's in black and white, not only the corporate community can see that, but also the fan base.
And, again, I think we're going to try to plan some things over the course of the next several months to make sure we have our name and our face out there in the marketplace, and the city's really excited and the province and tourism to work with on those kind of things, and we'll just see how that goes.
Q: Terry, while I have you here I'm going to relay a question we had asked multiple times while we were in Edmonton. The only negative that the fans were talking about was the fact that the IRL souvenir truck wasn't there and the teams weren't selling their T-shirts and their hats and jackets. I got kind of a partial explanation that it was about tariffs and taxes and things. But I think the fans want to sort of get an official reason from the IRL why that didn't happen and are we going to have that for next year in Toronto and Edmonton?
TERRY ANGSTADT: I do appreciate the question, and no one was as disappointed as we were, because it connects your fans to your drivers and your racing product so much more when they can take something home and wear it and use it and enjoy it. So it was a big disappointment to us as well.
There are some, in the apparel business specifically, there are somewhat protective measures taken by the Canadian government to encourage local production. If you get far enough ahead of that, you can minimize some of those financial risks. And we did not do that. So that's on us.
And I certainly told the folks I talked to up there that we do accept that responsibility, and we are going to improve that for the future. I am hopeful we can bring everything we take to every race, because it is successful and, again, fans like it, relate to it.
So that is certainly our goal. And I feel pretty good about the ability to deliver a great merchandise mix to both events for next year.
Q: Kevin, you mentioned Michael's success in Toronto, the record-setting seven wins. Just wondered if you treated this race as his baby and just how hands-on he was in bringing this race back to Toronto?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Michael is very involved. Obviously we made a lot of trips up here as part of our due diligence team. And Michael, I think, may have attended all those but one. And whether that was meetings with representatives from the province or tourism or the city, he's been very, very actively involved. And I do think it holds a really special place in his heart.
From the first time that the opportunity came available, Michael and Kim Green and myself all felt like we really had to try to put a deal together and try to make this happen. We felt like we had a great model in St. Petersburg, that with the cooperation of the league, a title sponsor and local government, that if we could replicate that in the Toronto market, we would have great success.
And, again, I think we've got a lot of those building blocks in place. As I said earlier, I think we're pretty close to having that last building block there. And we're going to be very proud of this event next year, I can promise you that.
Q: Terry, we saw the announcement this morning for Australia 2008. How likely is Australia for '09?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We are in active conversations regarding '09. We are keeping a couple of slots open for them. And we're hopeful it can be announced. When we conclude those we'll certainly let everyone know.
But we're hopeful we will get them included for '09. But just can't indicate that as yet.
Q: As a partner in scheduling with Japan, I presume?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That would be a good spot for it to fit, yes.
Q: And where do you stand with Cleveland and Houston, particularly with (Mike) Lanigan being an integral part of your sport?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We had a very good meeting with Mike and his promotion company at Edmonton, and we certainly talked through our real interest for the future in both markets. And that interest is real. So we wouldn't say that if it were not. So we are hopeful that those can be incorporated in the future.
Q: And kind of as a general thing, I've already got a bunch of e-mails regarding this subject. Tony George spent a lot of time at unification, in fact mentioning it a couple of times about not disenfranchising anyone and making this a clean sheet of paper, or cleaner, I think as I said. This is still an IRL-based schedule, three events, I believe, for '09 came from immediate Champ Car days, what kind of thoughts do you have about that?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, we think it is a good move towards balance, as we've also said that because Champ Car brought, as we've said, a lot of opportunities and a few challenges. And as exclusively road racing, we think that working towards that 50-50 balance is good. We already had a bit of a head start there. So by incorporating three and possibly four for the future for now, with continuing interest in some of the other premier markets, we think that a 10-8 for '09, 10 ovals, eight street and road, is a good balance. And as I said, there's real interest in a couple more historic Champ Car venues for the future.
Q: (Question about Houston and Cleveland venues)?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We've not been that specific, but I have referenced that we certainly never assume that these opportunities are open forever. So we know that we will need to make some decisions in the next year or two to keep those options open and viable.
Q: Terry, it seems that you're talking about a lot of future options but that none of the ovals are being mentioned. Are you at your limit for ovals for the schedule at 10?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We've not set any specific limit for ovals. We've tried on a couple of other ovals but have not been able to make those work. But for now I think we're feeling pretty good about the ovals we're at.
Q: Which markets are you looking to enter right now that is not part of the schedule, just the ones you've discussed, or are there a couple of others you're interested in?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We said we think to properly serve our fan base we still have a void in the northeast and northwest. So those are two geographic markets that we would like to find solutions to.
Q: New Hampshire Motor Speedway is still a possibility in the future?
TERRY ANGSTADT: It certainly is open from our perspective.
Q: Terry and Curtis, seems that the biggest change on the schedule is moving Homestead from the beginning of the season to the end. Terry just made a comment, it doesn't make sense to put 30,000 people in a big beautiful stadium. With all due respect, Homestead has not drawn impressive crowds for an IndyCar race; are you optimistic that the move to an October date will help in that regard?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We do. We think that we will bring some additional marketing clout to that. We are confident. We have already spoken to some of our new sponsors about their interest in South Florida and their being involved and interested in our final championship event. We are hopeful we can move the needle. And Curtis will be the first to say we talked long and hard about our historic performance there. And I think we are both confident that we can attract a much bigger crowd to our season-ender vs. our opener.
CURTIS GRAY: We feel the same way here. Growing the prestige of the championship, I think, is very important. And we're going to work with the IRL in that regard. But really, when you address South Florida as a championship event, that's what gets people excited down here. They're used to hosting a championship. Anything less than that makes it a tough sale sometimes. That's why we've had such success with our NASCAR event.
And also building up to the event, I think that's something we've learned and got experienced with is seeing how the Super Bowl creates events, ancillary events leading up to the championship, and we plan to do that same model for the IRL championship.
Q: With the release of the schedule today, although it was not specified whether it will be a championship event, but if you go from the season finale September 11th at Chicagoland until April 5th, that's seven months, the IndyCar Series is going to be out of the country. How do you hope to maintain the fans' attention through that incredibly long off season?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That's certainly a challenge we face. And I do think, though, if just to kind of think real time here. The sponsorship and other activities that we're having in developing some plans for future OEMs and equipment changes, we have lots of stories developing in and around the series. It's always a challenge in any business to maintain the excitement and business developments around our upcoming off season and stay in the news.
Q: Terry, I wanted to find out what made Homestead the ideal fit for the finale. And do you expect that the spring training will still be there?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Again, we were really, we could not feel better about finding a great South Florida warm weather oval, where we have real relationships with ISC. When we were pushing through our challenges of not only developing our entire schedule but then when it came down to kind of the championship ending event, we were just very excited to be able to put this deal together with ISC and Curtis. And, again, the climate's right. We think the venue is good.
We think the venue size is good. We think we can create, again, activities and championship banquet and other things in and around a few days down there and just not in town, in and out for a race. Our plans will be bigger than they have been in the past. And just really like the South Florida market to hold that celebration.
Q: How about spring training?
BRIAN BARNHART: We haven't set those dates for our preseason test. It's anticipated we'll probably continue, with what we've done the last couple of years, we'll do one on an oval and one on a road course, as yet to determine the locations.
Continued in part 3