At a time when plans to take F1 to New York faces opposition, the Indy Racing League looks set to add another new venue to its schedule, after Baltimore city officials agreed a five-year US$7.75m deal with Baltimore Racing Development to fund the race from 2011 on.

The City of Baltimore Board of Estimates have approved a plan that will see the funding - US$5m of which will come in loan contributions from the state of Maryland - for road improvements and specialist installations required for the street race, which will take place on a 2.4-mile layout around Baltimore's Inner Harbour and Camden Yards area. The remainder of the cost of improving the roads will come from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Prospective race organisers Baltimore Racing Development will share a percentage of event revenues with the city from the second year onwards and will pay an annual race fee of US$1.25m for the next five years. BRD has also pledged to donate US$100,000 of its estimated annual US$14m budget to local non-profit organisations.

"We are very pleased with the outcome of the Board of Estimates' unanimous vote as it is a key step in bringing the Indy Racing League to Baltimore in 2011," said Terry Angstadt, the Indy Racing League's commercial division president, "We will be working with the promoter to finalise a sanctioning agreement in the coming weeks and will announce more details regarding the future race at that time.

"Baltimore is a great fit for the Indy Racing League as it gives us a presence in the Mid-Atlantic region. Baltimore Racing Development, as well as the city of Baltimore, has been very enthusiastic throughout this process and we are confident they will put on a first-rate event to showcase the stars and cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series."

The promoter group estimates an influx of $250m to the city through ticket sales, hotel stays and restaurant business over the five years as well as $11m in direct tax revenue.

"This, my friends, is what we call a game-changer," mayor Stephanie C Rawlings-Blake claimed at a news conference outside City Hall, "Our city will be home to one of the most exciting events in the world. This race will change the way the world sees Baltimore."

A loop of streets surrounding the scenic and busy Inner Harbour entertainment district and Oriole Park at Camden Yards - where pit-lane would be located - will compose the racetrack. City transportation workers will begin preparing streets later this month - a process expected to take a year.

"This event could put Baltimore on the map for all the right reasons," council member William Cole IV, whose district would play host to the course, told the Baltimore Sun newspaper, "The festival atmosphere will bring people into the city who have never been here before, and the restaurants, hotels and businesses are going to have a weekend like no other."

Baltimore would join Long Beach, Sao Paulo, St Petersburg, Toronto and Edmonton as street circuits on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.


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