Grand Prix planned for Reno in 2009

Big-time Motorsports in Northern Nevada. How many times have we heard that rumor, only to be disappointed yet again?

Well, race fans, there's a project in the works that appears to have the best chance yet of bringing a big-league national racing series to the area. I had the opportunity last week to speak with a gentleman named Rick Standlof, who is the moving force behind the proposed Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix, a street race through the streets of downtown Reno.

Standlof, a long-time open-wheel race fan, has been attending the Long Beach Grand Prix for more than 10 years, and went to the inaugural Champ Car race in San Jose last summer. Shortly after that, while enjoying beverages with other race fans at the Silver Peak microbrewery in downtown Reno, a "tuner" car went by, and the engine noises reverberating off nearby buildings sounded to Standlof just like a turbocharged Champ Car. Thus was born the idea of holding a race in downtown Reno, and if all goes according to plan, the green flag will wave on the July 4 weekend of 2009.

Standlof has presented a 35-page business plan to many of the movers and shakers in Reno, and the feedback has been largely positive. Working with a venture capital group in Silicon Valley, he has secured a commitment for a $3 million purse, the largest Motorsports purse in the history of Nevada (take that, Las Vegas). He has made contact with the City of Reno to begin work on permits and cooperation from the police and fire departments. He is also working with the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority on marketing of the event. An endeavor of this magnitude takes a lot of planning and organization, but it looks as though Standlof has his ducks lined up.

The entire event will be privately funded, with some of the proceeds going to local charities. A fund-raising event planned for this coming August will benefit the Washoe Association for Retarded Citizens, helping that organization to purchase new vans to replace their old ones, which were damaged in the New Year's flood. Standlof's goal is for the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix to become an annual event that will rival Hot August Nights in terms of bringing in visitors and dollars to Reno and the surrounding area.

The proposed course will run from Wingfield Park up Arlington to California Street, over to Sierra, and back north to Second Street, crossing the Truckee River on two bridges, a unique feature for a street race. A festival area will be located near the new Justice Center, and several pedestrian bridges will provide access to both sides of the course.

Standlof hopes to partner with local construction companies to provide the physical requirements for the course, such as barriers, fencing, and bridges, and is working with the downtown casinos and condo associations to provide access during the race weekend, in addition to booking room blocks. The Long Beach Grand Prix adds more than 10,000 room nights to local hotels each year. Based on attendance figures from other street race events, Standlof anticipates on the order of 100,000 to 150,000 attendees the first year of the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix.

In addition to the feature race, there are other events planned for the week of the race, including a vintage race, drifting competition (which has become a popular part of the Long Beach race in recent years), and off track activities such as golf and poker tournaments and other events that will tie in with the "America's Adventure Place" theme.

An event of this magnitude will allow Reno to showcase downtown redevelopment on national TV, and do for Reno's downtown area what street racing has done for Long Beach. Three years seems like a long way off, but it takes a lot of work and planning to put together a major event like this. I'll continue to follow the story and provide updates as they take place.

Speaking of road racing, today is the final day of the third annual Reno Vintage Races at the Reno-Fernley road course. Sanctioned by the Historic Motorsports Association, the event features race cars from the distant and not so distant past. The races run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and admission is $15.


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