When the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach‘s newest contract is set to expire, the city will be gearing up for the 2028 Summer Olympics. On Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council unanimously voted in favour of a five-year extension that will retain the beloved NTT IndyCar Series street race through the 2028 season. Prior to the vote, the contract—signed between the city and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach (GPALB)—was last approved in December 2017 and ran through 2023.
“The Grand Prix has always been a very strong community event and this agreement just amplifies the unique relationship with the City of Long Beach going forward,” stated GPALB president Jim Michaelian.
As part of the deal, the Grand Prix Association will have a say in the street circuit’s development. For example, if the city or an interested company wishes to build upon a location that is part of the race course during the Grand Prix weekend, the GPALB would need to be notified. One particular area of note is the “Elephant Lot”, a portion of land that is mainly used for grandstands and additional paddocks on race day, but has been entertained for development such as sports stadiums. While the California Coastal Commission holds the final say on what to do with the lot as it is in the CCC’s designated coastal zones, the GPALB will also be involved in any dialogue.
The association is also on the hook for any damage to the streets used as the racing surface, as well as any fees related to organising the event. Due to the 2020 race being cancelled by COVID-19, the Press-Telegram reported the GPALB will pay $94,749 over five years with zero interest.
“We’ll be consulted from the very beginning of any project, which is important, because in the past without that requirement a developer could have come with a plan that didn’t afford us an opportunity for discussion or input or anything,” Michaelian told the Long Beach Post in December.
The schedule for setting up and taking down race-related facilities such as grandstands has also been decreased by four days. However, some GP-specific concrete structures remain standing as the 2022 race is only six months after 2021’s; although usually held in April, the 2021 GP took place in September due to the pandemic.
In 2028, the Summer Olympics will be held in Los Angeles and nearby areas like Long Beach. Sports that will take place in Long Beach include BMX racing, the triathlon, and water polo along the city waterfront, handbhall at the Long Beach Arena, and sailing at the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier; the Grand Prix’s track layout runs by each venue. Assuming the GP is still in its traditional April date by this point, it would give the city three months to prepare for the Games which begin on 21 July. Should any concerns spring up during this period, both parties are expected to “cooperate in good faith,” per the Press-Telegram story.
The news caps off a bittersweet Tuesday for the Association. Earlier in the day, GPALB co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven passed away at the age of 77; the former Champ Car World Series executive also founded the now defunct KV Racing Technology, winner of the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with Tony Kanaan.
Held since 1975, the Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of the most prestigious races in IndyCar, if not the second greatest behind the Indianapolis 500. The 2022 race is scheduled for 10 April, while Colton Herta is the defending winner. Support series have included IMSA and the Stadium Super Trucks.