A City of Long Beach selection committee is recommending to the city council that the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach (GPALB) is the “most qualified firm to promote and operate the Long Beach Grand Prix race” in 2019 and beyond. The current contract with GPALB ends with the 2018 race.


Last November, the city received two responses to its request for proposals (RFP) for a “promoter” of the annual street race. The other proposal was by World Auto Championship California, a group led by Chris Pook, who founded the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1974 and headed the GPALB until the end of 2001.


If the city council approves the staff recommendation – tentatively set to be heard at the August 8 city council meeting – then GPALB President/CEO Jim Michaelian and IndyCars will have beaten back an attempt by Pook to return Formula One race cars to city streets. Michaelian’s group will then negotiate a contract with the city, expected to be for at least five years with a five-year option.


Pook argued that the race needs to change to Formula One cars – which competed in Long Beach from 1975 through 1983 – in order to achieve the “highest and best use for the city.” Michaelian countered that his group is a “known quantity and a community asset,” stressing “we deliver.”


The committee chose the “known quantity.”


Reached for comment, Michaelian said, “We’re very delighted to have been identified by the city’s selection committee as the most qualified firm to continue promoting and operating the annual Toyota Grand Prix here in Long Beach. This is the first but important step in the continuation of the extraordinary partnership which we have had with the city for the last 43 years. And we look forward to final approval when the city council considers this matter in a few weeks.”


IndyCar CEO Mark Miles told Sports Business Journal, “We are delighted that after an in-depth process the City of Long Beach as concluded that the long history of successful IndyCar racing and our commitment to building on this track record is the way forward. Jim Michaelian and his team are excellent race promoters who deliver on their commitments and always keep the best interests of the citizens of Long Beach top of mind. They deserve the city’s confidence and support.”


When asked to comment about the city staff’s recommendation, Pook told the Business Journal, “We’re not sure they understand what would be the best use and best economics for the city. We think they probably must have missed a lot – we don’t know. We’re all kind of surprised at it. I think everybody is surprised. Certainly the international people are surprised. But it is what it is and we move on. Long Beach is Long Beach, you know. It’s not an Auburn, it’s not a Montreal, it’s not a Singapore, it’s not a Beijing – it’s Long Beach. There will be a race in the Southern California market; it’s just a shame it won’t be in Long Beach. It is what it is. It’s their city and they are certainly entitled to do what they want to do with it.”

Pook added that he may be out of town August 8, but expected a representative of his group to attend. “I’m sure there will be questions of us from the council,” he said.


In recommending the GPALB, the committee, in a memo dated July 24, stated that the group was “able to demonstrate their ability to perform and excel in all of the criteria categories,” and it “was the best proposal in fully demonstrating the ability to deliver a race and providing the breadth or depth of information required related to financial stability, race implementation, marketing plan, minimizing negative impacts, and conformance with the terms of the RFP.”


The two proposals were reviewed by KPMG Corporate Finance LLC, which provided operational, technical and financial analysis. Additionally, the committee – made up of economic development staff and an outside consultant – conducted two rounds of follow up questions with each group. Then one-hour interviews were conducted with representatives from five city departments and a special events representative from the City of Los Angeles Office of the Mayor.


According to the city memo, the proposals were evaluated based on the following criteria: demonstrated competence; experience in performance of comparable engagements; expertise and availability of key personnel; financial stability; conformance with the terms of this RFP; extent of increase to revenues/economic impacts; extent that negative impacts to business/residents are minimized; innovative marketing plan/planned activities; support from sanctioning body (Formula One/Indy Car).