The 100 year tradition of racing at the Milwaukee Mile may still be alive in 2012. (Photo: Zach Wenzel)
Rick Frenette, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin State Fair Park (home to the Milwaukee Mile), say he is “pretty positive” Milwaukee will return to the 2012 IndyCar schedule.
In recent weeks, speculation has increased that IndyCars will race again on the legendary one mile oval. The Mile was initially left off the 2012 IndyCar schedule but that looks set to change. In interviews with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dave Kallman, both the CEO of IndyCar and the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Mile indicated talks are ongoing and moving in a positive direction. But there is tension over one aspect of contract negotiations that might ultimately derail talks of returning to Milwaukee. That tension revolves around longevity.
IndyCar in the past few outings at Milwaukee have only re-upped on one year contracts. The uncertainty around the future of the race seems to make it more difficult to sign the dotted line for Rick Frenette, the Executive Director of Wisconsin State Fair Park– home to the Milwaukee Mile. “The hard part with us is with the uncertainty of something being there forever and being positive because you watch the (IndyCar) schedule go out this year and they changed a number of tracks,” Frenette said.
Some complaints on IndyCar’s end is that the venue needs significant updates which becomes something of a Catch-22 for Milwaukee. “If we ever got some more certainty (. . .) Right now we’re not spending a lot of capital improvement dollars on the track either because we’re not going to put money into something that won’t pay me back,” said Frenette. IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard, was equally bullish as well as optimistic. “We’d love to have Milwaukee, but it’d have to make sense for a promoter to be able to go there,” he said. ” If the opportunity exists, we’d like to try to do it. But I don’t think we’re any further. Until we sign that dotted line, we’re no further,” Bernard added.
If a deal is put together, sponsorship would have to be finalized inside of five months. That may sound insurmountable but, Bernard says, procuring sponsorship would have to come down to existing relationships anyways. “If you didn’t have it by October (when IndyCar was finalizing its race contracts), it’s going to take relationships. Hopefully some sponsors will still have some money in their budgets to make this work.” Time to promote the race to ticket-buyers was also not a top concern for Bernard. “Most of your fan base for any sport today will buy their ticket in the last 18 days,” he said.
Bernard also clarified the addition of Milwaukee would not be based out of desperation. Currently the 2012 IndyCar schedule only holds 15 events, an amount deemed lacking by most of IndyCar’s fan-base. “If we have to live with 15 events this year, we can live with 15 events.” Bernard indicated there is another racetrack, in addition to Milwaukee, holding interest in securing a 2012 race but would not disclose which track it might be.
Bernard admitted the Milwaukee Mile’s future is bleak without a big-name event like IndyCar. “We owe the Milwaukee people. We owe the track,” Bernard said. “If we don’t do this, the chances of that track becoming mothballed, I think, is a possibility.”
Frenette felt similar. “We hope that we can get it back and have a successful event, a little better than last year, and they will continue to come back. It gives the Milwaukee Mile some activity. There’s not much else out there,” he said.