CART Champ Car World Series press conference Chris Pook, Jim Francesconi and Mike Nealy Adam Saal: We're delighted that you could take the time out of your busy day to join us for a press announcement about the future of this event. Joining us...
CART Champ Car World Series press conference
Chris Pook, Jim Francesconi and Mike Nealy
Adam Saal: We're delighted that you could take the time out of your busy day to join us for a press announcement about the future of this event. Joining us now are Portland Commissioner Jim Francesconi, CART President and CEO Christopher R. Pook and of course we also have Mike Nealy, the President of Global Events Group to do the honors for today's announcement, Mr. Francesconi will you please do the honors.
Jim Francesconi: Good morning and welcome to one of our terrific parks, PIR in the City of Portland. The City of Portland and Championship Auto Racing Teams have reached a verbal agreement for a three-year agreement for the use of Portland International Raceway to ensure that Champ Cars will continue racing in Portland until at least 2006. We're very pleased with the agreement that will allow the City of Portland to continue to upgrade the physical structure and the fan amenities for this track. We are also encouraged by CART's business plan and how it's expected to become an even stronger international series in the future.
We are especially pleased that CART and Chris Pook have agreed to include specific performance measures in the final contract that will guarantee that the citizens of Portland and the surrounding communities will continue to enjoy world-class racing at PIR during the terms of the contract. This is very good for the economy of the Portland area and for Oregon which you know is suffering right now. CART makes an annual $20 million positive impact on the region through our hotels, restaurants, rental car agencies, airlines and other tourism accommodations. That means good jobs and steady income for the City of Portland and its citizens. Another positive outcome of this agreement is the strong coalition of civic partners that has been formed to promote the growth of the race and help pay for the additional park improvements at PIR. These partners include the Portland Rose Festival, the Portland Visitors Association, the Oregon Sports Authority and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Portland is on the verge of becoming a world-class international city and CART can help drive us there. Thank you to CART for choosing to make Portland one of its 20 stops on its international tour. Now in just a minute, let's go racing.
Adam Saal: Thank you Mr. Commissioner. Chris Pook is no stranger to anyone in this room that follows CART Champ Car, having made the Cosworth announcement here last year and Chris, talk about how this fits into CART's plan for the future.
Chris Pook: Well first of all, Commissioner, thank you very much indeed for your help in getting this agreement done. We have been firmly on record that the Pacific Northwest is a very important part of our strategic marketing plan for Championship Auto Racing Teams, our partners Bridgestone and Ford and Portland delivers the Pacific Northwest for us. It's geographical location makes it important. It is close to Seattle, which is important for us. Our partner race up in Vancouver is another part of this whole equation, and Portland is a perfect example of our urban business plan and what we're looking for. It's a very picturesque track, it's a road course it's a traditional road course in every sense of the word and more importantly it's located right in the heart of the city. It's ten minutes from the center of the city and part of our whole philosophy at CART is that we must take our product to the marketplace versus some of the old thoughts which was more like the marketplace coming to the product.
Portland let's us do that and it's a tremendous city. It's for all the right sort of infrastructure that's important for our series. Our sponsors, the corporations that are involved in the series this is what they come to expect -- they want to have very good racing but they also want to have good hotels and restaurants available to them within a very short distance and fortunately for us, this is what Portland offers. For Championship Auto Racing Teams this is a significant milestone and we look forward to being here for the next 20 years. The last 20 years have been tremendous and the Rose Festival has been unbelievable partner for Championship Auto Racing Teams over the last 20 years and now that partnership is growing and as you heard the commissioner say there's been a business coalition that's been put together and together with that business coalition we will all grow this business and grow the economic impact that the event makes to the city each year.
Adam Saal: Thank you very much Chris. Mike Nealy had the vision to start this race 20 years ago and Mike here we are on the anniversary and congratulations to you for establishing what's become a hallmark event on the CART Champ Car calendar. Talk a little bit about both the business coalition as well as this announcement today and again as we look to the future what do you think the racing fans in Portland have in store for them.
Mike Nealy: Thanks Adam. First of all I want to thank Commisioner Francesconi because, once given all the facts and taking an active role in it, he was very decisive in putting it together for us and I can personally express gratitude for that. Because this is an important event for the community for many of the same reasons that Chris already said the coalition itself really follows up on and builds on the legacy of the Rose Festival and now that we have the Portland, Oregon Visitors association, the Oregon Sports Authority, the Hispanic Chamber, along with the Portland Business Alliance, we're able to actually attract more in the way of getting businesses interested in it and we're putting together a host committee right now, for example, of really interested business leaders from the community and that, to us, is very encouraging. And most of all, when the city wins, the race fan wins because we're bringing world class racing continuing to be here and the economy is really the big winner and the race fans are the big winners and I think what Chris is doing in terms of the vision and, as a promoter I can tell you that even the attitude of the drivers and the teams has been terrific for us in terms of their availability, their work with us has been terrific. We had hundreds and hundreds of fans at a G.I. Joe's store on Thursday, last night we had Alex (Tagliani) downtown in The Pearl where we did the "Party in the Pearl." It's very exciting to see what's going and to see how the city continues to embrace this event for what it is -- a good time.
Adam Saal: Thank you very much Mike. At this point let's open it up for questions from the media.
Q: The commissioner mentioned specific performance measures for CART. What are they? Are they attendance levels? Revenue contributions or what?
Jim Francesconi: First of all, the specifics on the performance measures we're going to negotiate, but it does include things like international TV coverage, the quality of the cars, the number of cars, attendance, those types of factors. But we're going to sit down and work those things through.
Q: Will G.I. Joe's continue their role as sponsor or is it too early to tell?
Mike Nealy: It's too early to say at this point in time. We remain to be very optimistic about that, we truly do.
Q: They've been around for a long time, which is kind of unusual. Do they feel that they still get a lot out of their sponsorship?
Mike Nealy: I think they get a lot out of it and the other thing that bodes well for us is with their growth in the Seattle market, which is a market that's very important for us, along with Vancouver. We like that marriage with G.I. Joe's and we'd like to continue that for sure and we are certainly pursuing that at this time. The other thing that G.I. Joe's brings along are certainly other corporate partners that could step forward in light of their relationship with G.I. Joe's as well.
Jim Francesconi: And G.I. Joe's is a terrific corporate citizen. Norm Daniels especially. Just for the city, we can't speak for the private sector, we're hopeful.
Q: When do you anticipate signing the agreement with CART? You mentioned that this is a verbal agreement and obviously not binding, when do you see this getting done?
Jim Francesconi: Well it is verbal, but it's the equivalent even though it is not signed, to a memorandum of understanding which is common in this business. Then we just need to reduce it to the specifics and put it into writing. We are hopeful to get this done in the next three months or so but it is conditional on CART's availability.
Q: Mike, Are you talking to other businesses about being title sponsors, not knowing if G.I. Joe's is coming back?
Mike Nealy: Thus far we have not had any other discussions with any other company regarding the title. We certinaly have had other discussions with companies about new involvement into the series, we have several of those entities represented over this past weekend and we have some that have been brought on board because of G.I. Joe's involvement that look at this as a possibility of doing something with G.I. Joe's as well.
Q: At what point would you need an answer from G.I. Joe's one way or another?
Mike Nealy: I don't remember exactly what the date is, but we have no reason to believe that after 20 years that they would not continue to be involved somehow. I would be less than candid if I did not say that.
Q: What specific upgrades will be made possible with this agreement?
Jim Francesconi: That is a good question. There are primarily, three things that we have identified initially. Pit-in and pit-out in terms of barrier and fencing and things of that nature and we will do some things in the Festival Curves area.
Q: How about building bridges to allow the transporters to get out?
Jim Francesconi: It certainly is on the list. We have an extensive list with a lot of issues, we know that that bridge needs to be built, but this is a tough economy but we as a city need to devise a variety of strategies working with CART and others to build that bridge. We're very aware of it.
Chris Pook: Let me say something here. The bridge is important but there are some other things that right now that are more important than the bridge. We can live without the bridge, we've lived without it for 20 years and we just have to discipline ourselves a little bit better with how we come in and out of the place. There are other things that we need to do together on the facility and if the economy improves I'm sure the bridge will get built but us certainly as a sanctioning body to say that we want a bridge right now, that's not the right thing for us to do. We've got other priorities that we want to work with the Parks Department right now.
Q: The performance standards you mentioned, what are those? Are they exact numbers or what?
Jim Francesconi: Well, these details we need to work through and I am confident that we will. It could include a range of numbers but we're very confident and we would not have reached a verbal agreement unless we were confident that we could reach the specifics and that this was in the best interests of not only the fans, but the parks and the people. This is the best thing to do, CART is one of our partners and they are not the only business in town to be down a little bit and this gives us the best opportunity to build it back.
Chris Pook: You should understand that numbers of race cars and the things that the Commissioner is talking about are standard for us in our sanctioning agreements. These are things that normal promoters ask for and they are in existing agreements, including the ones with the Rose Festival. They are ones that we are more than happy to comply with. It is perfectly reasonable for them to ask for these things.
Jim Francesconi: The bottom line is, people like Norm Daniels that have put a lot of time and effort into this and we need to make sure that we have appropriate flexibility during a tough economy and we guarantee that it is world-class racing here at PIR. That's what we have to insist on.
Q: Are there any plans to build garages?
Jim Francesconi: That is one of things that is on the list but in the grand scale there are things that come before that.
Q: The IRL is talking about trying to run road courses, have they made a run at you at all?
Mike Nealy: Never.
Jim Francesconi: There is one specific clause that is going to be in the contract and that is that there has to be more Italian drivers (Laughter)
Adam Saal: The Commissioner is making a joke there but wait until the phone starts ringing Monday morning (More Laughter). Thank you all for coming.