Following significant speculation last year, the IndyCar Series is stopping by the city-owned Portland International Raceway (PIR) on Labor Day Weekend for at least the next three years.
Big news for racing fans, and frankly, I was a bit surprised when the news broke this morning.
As anyone that follows sports in the Rose City knows, Portland often lands on potential expansion destination lists, be it MLB, NFL or, in this case, IndyCar. But unlike those other sports, Indy Car racing via the Champ Car World Series was here as recently as 2007, so when legitimate talk of the IndyCar Series finding its way to Portland started making the rounds, it certainly seemed like a likely possibility. Such so, that the KNA was actually encouraged by some racing enthusiasts with particular objections to IndyCar to take steps to block the IndyCar Series in Portland.
So why the surprise?
It comes down to the infrastructure. While the track itself is in racing shape, the rest of PIR needs work to be an IndyCar stop. “I haven’t been there for six months, but from when I went, I’d say there’s some upgrading that needs to be done because everything there is kinda temporary,” told Tony Cotman of NZR Consulting to Motorsport.com. “So my worry would be that it doesn’t just need a promoter; more like a ‘promoter-plus’ – someone who’s willing to take more of a financial risk.”
I thought that financial risk would make IndyCar in Portland a hard sell, but I was wrong: That promoter-plus emerged as IndyCar and Green Savoree, an Indianapolis-based motorsports event ownership and management company, agreed to cover the expense of needed upgrades.
The track has become a polarizing issue among neighbors, and the response to Indy Car racing back at PIR will likely play out as usual with supporters discarding concerns among neighbors with arguments telling them to move, get used to it or to recognize that PIR was there.
Of course, these debates happen for a reason, and the number of newer Kenton residents that lack PIR nostalgia, don’t have interest in racing and/or are bothered by the noise and pollution happening at a city park keeps growing. Supporters of the track need to recognize that and find ways to engage with those newer residents if the track is to remain successful.
Is IndyCar the answer? I’m not sure.
But we do know that the city is at least talking about neighborhood concerns. While pointing to possible economic benefits, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees PIR through Portland Parks & Recreation, also mentioned a willingness to work with neighbors on noise impacts.
“It is very exciting to see IndyCar racing coming back to the Rose City,” Commissioner Fritz, said today at a press conference. “An event of this magnitude means $12 million to$15 million in revenue to the city, scores of jobs, and an exciting weekend of racing with new cars using clean-burning ethanol for fuel. I also acknowledge that there will likely be noise impacts in nearby neighborhoods. We will work closely with the organizers and the neighborhoods to mitigate the impact.”
The KNA is certainly ready to work closely with the city, and to that end, the KNA is already planning meetings with representatives from Portland Parks & Recreation about the event. Along those lines, following up on concerns raised last year by Speaker Tina Kotek, who lives in Kenton, the city released to the KNA this week findings from lead air testing at the track. The KNA will be seeking out expert assistance in evaluating the results, but in the meantime, the study can be found below:10159-38_PPR_PIR_Lead_Assessment_Report_100517