An interview with: Jim Michaelian Rena Shanaman <B>Moderator: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations and in a few moments we'll be...
An interview with:
<B>Moderator: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations and in a few moments we'll be joined by the entire CART SPEED Channel announcing crew and two key members of the production team.
Before we get to that we wanted to take a few minutes to touch on a special announcement that was made by CART on Monday. It was announced late yesterday afternoon that CART, the City of St. Petersburg, Florida, and Dover Downs Entertainment Incorporated have reached an agreement to bring Champ Car Racing to St. Petersburg.
The inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be held February 21st through the 23rd in 2003 and will serve as CART's season-opening race, marking the first time since the 2000 season that the CART FedEx Championship Series will open its schedule in the United States.
We're privileged to be joined today by two people who will play significant roles in the development and execution of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Rena Shanaman, CART's vice president of joint venture promoter relations, and Jim Michaelian, the president and chief executive officer of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, who serves the same role with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
We'll ask both Rena and Jim to make a brief statement and then we'll take a couple of quick questions.
Jim, we'll start with you. You've been working very closely with the folks in St. Petersburg over the last several months. If you would, tell us a little bit about the marketplace and what the fans can expect to see next February?
Jim Michaelian: Thanks. On behalf of all of us at Dover Downs, let me say how excited we are to be able to be involved in this event. We think it has the potential for being one of the most spectacular street courses and events on the CART FedEx Championship Series schedule.
We're excited for a variety of reasons. We think it's a great market. When you take a look at the strength of the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay market in and of itself, it has the 14th largest profile in terms of attractive marketplaces. And when you combine that with what's available in the Orlando, Daytona Beach market, you end up with the fifth largest DMA in the country, which speaks to the strength of that central Florida region and ability to attract a very strong and substantial audience.
In that regard, not only do they have strong demographics, but there's a very large and growing Hispanic market there, too, which as you know plays into the strength of the CART FedEx Championship Series. So the market is very strong. We think we've laid out a circuit there at St. Pete which meets all of the criteria; it's fast, averages over 100 miles an hour, it's competitive, there are at least two major places to pass, which as you know is always a matter of some contention when you're laying out street courses. It's safe. There are major run-off areas to accommodate almost any contingency.
Most of all, it has a minimal amount of impact in a negative way on everyday life in the St. Petersburg area. People will be able to conduct their business and also enjoy having a race right in their downtown area.
I can tell you, having worked with a lot of the officials from the City of St. Petersburg, they are very excited about having the event there, from the mayor Rick Baker right down to the City Council, which passed the agreement with us by a unanimous vote.
And the city employees there have all worked very hard at helping us to get to this stage. We're looking forward to working with them. They recognize value of the event, they're looking forward to the infusion of capital that comes in because of the dollars that are expended there.
There are tremendous restaurants, hotels, other entertainment opportunities there. It bodes well for being a very attractive venue that a lot of people not only from the racing community but also the CART family will want to attend.
Quite frankly, kicking off the season at St. Petersburg, in the United States, that part of the country, is not a bad way to go. There's a lot of racing that's going to be going on in that month of February down in Florida anyway. We're delighted to be able to have our race as a part and parcel of that whole fabric of racing that's going to be conducted in February of 2003.
I'd be remiss if in closing I didn't mention the fact that we will be joining with CART in terms of putting all our assets together not only to promote and market this race, but also to present it in a very positive light to the inhabitants of that particular part of the United States, as well as obviously to a national and international TV audience.
We think it has a tremendous amount of potential. We're looking forward to getting started on establishing an office there and putting out information with regard to ticket and other hospitality opportunities and are looking forward to a great event coming in February of 2003.
<B>Moderator: Thank you very much for your comments. We're all looking forward to this event.
We'll bring in now Rena Shanaman, vice president of joint venture promoter relations for CART. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is another event that will be co-promoted and co-marketed by both CART and Dover Downs. You'll oversee those efforts. Talk a little bit about the challenges ahead and the importance of CART opening this season with a strong event in a market like St. Petersburg.
Rena Shanaman: I, on behalf of everyone at CART, I think we're just as excited to be opening our 2003 season in a market like the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando region of Florida. I welcome the opportunity.
Obviously, coming from the Midwest, the idea of working down in Florida for the weeks leading up in February isn't a bad thing. But beyond those selfish reasons for looking forward to it, we were down there in February, and not only were we impressed with the layout of the track and the picturesque background of the water, as well as the openness of the racing that will take place on the airport runway, but beyond that what I think I was most impressed with was the real sense of unity and support that exists, as Jim just mentioned, not only with the Mayor and City Council, but the convention and visitors bureau, a lot of the business organizations that we got to be introduced to and met with.
So it's a part of the United States that not only is attractive as a tourist destination and a living, quality-of-life destination, it's being marketed by all those entities around the world. So we see it as a great opportunity in partnering with Dover Downs to make sure that we're presenting an event that is going to be exciting, fan-friendly and easily marketable to our global customers, not just the TV audience, but hopefully we'll be able to attract visitors from around the world.
To be able to kick off the season in that kind of venue, that kind of environment, and hopefully continue to reach out to customers and fans from around the world, we think will be a great thing.
<B>Moderator: Thank you very much for your comments. We have a couple minutes to take a couple questions for Rena and Jim.
Q Jim, could you explain in more detail about the actual layout, the specifics of the layout, what do you know so far, the length of the track, and its actual location?
Jim Michaelian: It's downtown, right in a similar proximity to where the previous race took place back in the mid '80s when the TransAms were there. It's round the Bayfront Center, goes down Bay Shore Drive, along the waterfront, real picturesque through there. Actually, we've gotten permission to go out on the Albert Whitted Airport. We're going to close down one runway, leave one runway open. Analogous of Cleveland, wide open through there, the pit straight will be there, good passing. It comes back, winds around to First Street, which is on the periphery of downtown St. Pete, through the park.
It's 1.78 miles around, 14 turns. Average speed on our simulation studies is about 103 miles an hour, so we're over the 100-mile-an-hour mark. And we'll approach speeds of 175 to 180 top speed on the airport property.
I can tell you, it is a great circuit. It sort of blends a lot of Long Beach, Cleveland and Vancouver, if you can imagine, you know, some of the best attributes all those tracks have to offer.
Q Rena, do you plan on working on co-promoting more races this year among the races that have already been set, like any in Europe or others in the United States?
Rena Shanaman: We do expect there will be two to three additional co-promoted announcements. Sometime probably in the next several weeks all those will be finalized. There likely will be at least one overseas event included in that.
Q Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.
Rena Shanaman: I do. Adam can vouch for this. We just discussed today that my staff definitely has to be increased because, you know, my hands are full, but at the same time I think it's an exciting opportunity, one that I feel quite complimented about personally that Mr. Pook, being the premiere promoter in the CART FedEx Championship Series, would entrust those events.
But we also believe that this is the right direction to go where CART will have a stake and a risk, shared with our promoters, in helping to plan, present and promote each of our events, where we co-promote.
Q Do you have any idea right now how many grandstands you might be erecting for that race?
Jim Michaelian: We've done a preliminary layout. Obviously, we'll get it finalized as we go along. We're looking at the capability of putting anywhere from 40 to 50,000 seats, primarily in the parking lot around the Bayfront Center and also on the runway, which will be closed on the Albert Whitted Airport.
<B>Moderator: I'd like to thank Rena and Jim for joining us this afternoon. We're hearing from our guests from the SPEED Channel next. Thanks for stopping by. We're all looking forward to a tremendous event in St. Petersburg to kick off the 2003 season next February. Again, thanks for joining us, Rena and Jim.