After more than a century of racing The Milwaukee Mile’s future is in doubt, again.
As an event Milwaukee was probably hurt the most by the “The Split” between CART and the Indy Racing League. For decades the race was promoted as “The Cars and Stars of the Indy 500,” and took place the weekend after the 500. In the bitter struggle between the two sanctioning bodies Milwaukee stayed with CART and the tradition was broken. Because the track is owned by the Milwaukee State Fair it relies on promoters to make the event successful and until Michael Andretti got a hold of it Milwaukee didn’t fair very well.
Andretti appears to be doing a year-to-year contract with the IZOD Indycar series, and unlike last year didn’t take to the loud system to announce that the event would continue next year. This scares me. Milwaukee is a market Indycar needs to win. Open Wheel has always had a strong base in the Midwest and if Andretti can’t make Indycar work at the Milwaukee Mile I start wondering if anyone can.
Obviously all I know is what I read and what I see on TV. I saw a lot of empty grandstands and while there was an abundance of corporate signage, most of it belonged to sponsors already associated with Andretti Autosport. They aren’t packing the stands and they haven’t signed a title sponsor. I’m sure a forecast calling for rain the last two years hasn’t helped day of sales.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Milwaukee IndyFest isn’t sustainable yet. Kevin Healy, the director of Indyfest told the newspaper that it would take some time to build it
“It’s the sort of thing that you’re trying to rebuild it off a number of years of really bad performance. To that end, you’re seeing real good momentum over the two years we’ve been doing this, but these are the sort of things that take a while to grow back… Can we put it together? Yeah. We can. But there’s several factors we have to get in place to make this a sustainable event.”
So the way I read it is that as of 2013 Milwaukee isn’t profitable, and it’s probably a mix of sponsorship and ticket sales.
“In the end it’s going to come down to sponsorship. We need more,” Andretti told the Chicago Tribune. “We can’t lose this race.”
Andretti is committed to making it work long term, but how long can they continue to take a loss on it? I’m not sure, I just hope they can turn it around before racing leaves Milwaukee, possibly forever.