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Montreal waits at Grand Prix pit stop

By Archives October 28, 2008

The Montreal Grand Prix could be back on track.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay, international trade minister Michael Fortier, and Quebec economic development minister Raymond Bachand returned to Montreal on Friday from a group-meeting with Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone. The meeting was held to find a way to bring the Grand Prix back to Montreal.
Tremblay described the meeting as “encouraging,” but the three warned the cost of resuscitating the race would be significant, and would require the support of local government and businesses.
While the three government leaders headed to London, local business owners and festival organizers held a press conference last Wednesday to show their support, saying they are ready to work as a team to get the Grand Prix back.
For downtown hotels, restaurants and shops, many of whom double their staff during the Grand Prix weekend, the financial ramifications of loosing the race could be disastrous.
“It is the only international event that assembles each year in Canada that gives us a window of 300 million viewers,” said Alain Creton, president of the Peel Street Merchants’ Association and owner of the Alexandre et Fils restaurant. He said his restaurant stands to lose almost $100,000 in revenue next year if the Grand Prix is not held.
According to business owners, the race brings in more income than all of Montreal’s summer festivals combined.
But they warn the price of salvaging the event might be too much to bear.
“We are ready to pay the price for the Grand Prix, but not at any price,” said Creton, who noted merchants already put up $2 million to save the race in 2003.
Still, he said businesses can’t do it on their own; Creton said the government also has to play a role, and needs to invest in a survival fund for the Grand Prix.