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Business & Developmentby Fern Shen and Mark Reutter4:16 pmSep 13, 20130

2014 and 2015 Grand Prix will be canceled, mayor tweets

ANALYSIS: “Scheduling problems” mask the race’s bigger problems.

Above: Tom Noonan (left), CEO of Visit Baltimore, and Councilman Bill Cole (right) flank Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake during today’s announcement.

Breaking the news late on a Friday, city officials and race organizers assembled media at the offices of Visit Baltimore today for a big announcement:

Due to “scheduling problems,” the Baltimore Grand Prix – which turned the city into a speedway for the past three Labor Day weekends and ate up $8 million in street repaving and police and fire overtime – is not being held in 2014 and 2015, they said.

In an unusual twist, before reporters scrambling to cover it could put out much information or tweet out a photo, @MayorSRB was doing it for them.

“Race organizers and Baltimore announced no Grand Prix for 2014 or 2015 due to difficulty finding a date,” came one tweet, from the official Twitter account of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

(The tweet came along with the above photo of the news conference.)

The Gamer Changer That Wasn’t

The tweets continued, offering observations aimed at putting a positive spin on the decision to pull the plug on an event the Mayor introduced in 2011 as “a game-changer for Baltimore”:

“Before Grand Prix, Labor Day weekend was 1 of the slowest times of year for Bmore businesses.”

“3 yrs later, the Grand Prix has generated nearly $135 million for Baltimore City, supporting jobs and many minority and women-owned businesses.”

“I will always fight for opportunities to showcase Baltimore to the world and bring job creating investments into our city.”

Writing on the Wall

News breaking over the summer that the event once again lacked an official sponsor – followed by hints and winks by the administration that next year’s Labor Day weekend was booked with a Navy-Ohio State game at M&T Bank Stadium, conflicting with the race – signaled that the end was near, though no one at City Hall could publicly admit that the race had fizzled.

Back in July, we noted that, in addition to failing to pick up a deep-pocket sponsor, the mayor had seemingly lost interest in the event. Worse still, J. P. Grant, the event’s financier (and single largest campaign contributor to Rawlings-Blake’s 2011 mayoral run) was clearly losing a ton of money.

Grant’s contract with the city lasts until 2016, which means that, theoretically, race cars could be speeding through downtown Baltimore streets three years from now.

But that’s highly unlikely given the race’s history, checkered with red ink.

For more, see Inside City Hall: The Grand What?

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