If you haven’t already read David Bernstein’s new article on Marty Walsh and the Grand Prix in Boston Magazine (“Is the Grand Prix Taking Boston for a Ride?“), I highly recommend that you do.
If you’ve been following the drama around Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, many things in this article will sound familiar.
A complete disregard for public consent and engagement:
In mid-May, without public hearings, Walsh signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Grand Prix of Boston, clearing the way for the city to host five annual IndyCar road races on the South Boston waterfront, each Labor Day weekend from 2016 to 2020…..
Grand Prix representatives held an informational meeting with South Boston elected officials on May 14, I have learned—a day after Walsh signed the contract. A meeting with Fort Point neighborhood residents wasn’t held until nearly a week later: May 19, the night before the news went public.
A disregard for the risk of spiraling costs and inconveniences:
Surprisingly, Walsh’s memo with the Grand Prix provides no payments, subsidies, or other “linkage” in exchange for the use of Boston’s streets—while leaving City Hall on the hook for a fair amount of ancillary costs and inconveniences, which have the potential to balloon as the Waterfront finally blossoms and fills in with people and businesses.
Before Norton was spokesperson for the Grand Prix, of course, she was Walsh’s press secretary. And the connections between Walsh and the Grand Prix don’t end there. Consulting work for Grand Prix Boston is being done by CK Strategies, which is also consulting for Boston 2024; Chris Keohan of CK Strategies was Walsh’s 2013 campaign strategist. Also consulting for the Grand Prix are Dino Difonzio, Dan Passacantilli, and Kenny Ryan – all with close connections to Walsh, mostly through his 2013 campaign.
Unrealistic economic promises that completely belie available data:
In its community outreach, the Grand Prix has suggested that the event can be expected to draw at least 250,000 total spectators over the course of three days….That talking-points memo, which I’ve obtained, claims that “similar urban events in the IndyCar Series traditionally produce… 250,000+ spectators over three days.”…From what I can tell, that statement appears to be an unadulterated lie: The only IndyCar event that purports to draw 250,000-plus spectators is the iconic Indianapolis 500, which is not at all similar to anything like the event being planned in Boston…Conveniently, the national IndyCar Series sanctioning corporation, Indy Racing League, does not allow attendance figures to be released—how’s that for a transparency issue?—but I have been shown marketing materials, intended for sponsors, that indicate the average attendance has been under 100,000 in recent years….If the Grand Prix’s claim of 250,000 total spectators doesn’t hold water, then it’s unlikely the economic benefit claims will, either…
In that same one-page fact sheet I obtained, Grand Prix organizers claim that similar IndyCar events produce upwards of $40 million in direct spending, and $75-$80 million total, including indirect impact….One of the very few independent, post-Grand Prix economic impact studies available—in 2012, for Baltimore, the race Grand Prix of Boston is ostensibly replacing—found a direct impact of $24 million in 2012, with a total impact of $42 million…..That’s barely half of what the Grand Prix of Boston info sheet claims is typical…