Superkarts to bring Modesto cash?

kvaline@modbee.comSeptember 5, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
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    E-mail: kvaline@modbee.com

— Modesto officials are touting an economic driver they say will draw 10,000 people who will spend nearly $1 million during their three days in the city next year: professional superkart racing.

The city is working with Southern California-based SuperKart USA to bring a race to downtown streets Aug. 1-3. About 300 superkart racers would compete in eight classifications over the three days.

The City Council's Economic Development Committee this week approved having staff continue working on the project. Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Director Julie Hannon said she hopes to bring a contract before the full council this month.

The karts look something like miniature Formula One race cars. But there is nothing puny about their performance. They can reach speeds of more than 100 mph and go from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, said Scott Humphries, a Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods administrative analyst working on the project.

Hannon said the event is a way to promote Modesto and draw visitors who will spend money at local hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

City officials hope to land some top drivers from NASCAR, the IZOD IndyCar Series and Formula One to the event. Those drivers often got their start driving karts and still compete in kart races.

The city expects the event will draw 10,000 spectators along with 1,560 drivers, pit crew members and race officials. The city expects these out-of-towners will spend $968,000 during their time in Modesto. That's based on their spending $50 a day on food and other items, as well as $100 a night on lodging.

The city will have to spend some money to make money. The proposal calls for SuperKart USA to run the race and take care of the race's technical details, while Modesto's duties would include setting up the track under SuperKart's supervision, promoting the event and providing security.

Modesto estimates its costs for the race at $286,000. But it expects to raise about $338,000 through ticket sales and sponsorships, allowing the city to net more than $50,000.

Hannon said the proposed relationship with SuperKart USA would be similar to what the city had with AEG Sports, which produces the Amgen Tour of California, the biggest bicycle race in the nation. Modesto was part of the tour four times, from 2008 through 2011.

Hannon said Amgen was a boon for business because it drew bicycle racing fans to the city. But it was not a moneymaker for the city. The Bee reported in 2008 that the city netted $13,000 from its first Amgen race, putting up $50,000 for the race and raising $63,000.

A city spreadsheet for the three other races shows Modesto's costs were about $300,000 to about $332,000, with the city netting about $2,000 in two of those years and losing about $2,000 in one year.

Hannon said the city has more opportunities to make money from superkart racing, in part because its expenses will be lower. For instance, she said Modesto was required to feed and house the Amgen bicycle racers and their crews. She said Modesto won't have to do that with the superkart racers and their pit crews.

Humphries said motorsports are very popular in Northern California. There are nearly a dozen racetracks within a 130-mile radius of Modesto, and Modesto has a strong car and racing culture.

Humphries said he contacted SuperKart USA officials to see if they had an interest in coming to Modesto. SuperKart officials have visited and walked downtown streets.

SuperKart USA officials declined to comment. The organization puts on races in Southern California, Arizona and other locations.

Economic Development Committee and council members Dave Cogdill Jr., Stephanie Burnside and Joe Muratore greeted the proposal with enthusiasm.

To view the city's proposal, including its analysis of the economic benefits, go to modestogov.com/council/committees/econ.asp and click on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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