Thanks to the quick work of City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, the Evanston Grand Prix will return to Evanston for the fourth consecutive year and the City will be better for it. The race’s organizer, Chris Mailing of Turin Bicycle on Davis Street, found that in tight economic times sponsorships of events such as the Grand Prix can be tough to come by. Even when sponsors come through, it is often for amounts less than in previous years. That happened to Mr. Mailing this year, who after a major sponsor reduced its contribution decided it would be best to take a year off. He described himself as at peace with the decision, believing the race could be revived next year.
In stepped the City. Mr. Bobkiewicz met with Mr. Mailing to determine the need, and when the City learned that $10,000 was enough to keep the race in Evanston the City Manager asked Council to step forward as a sponsor. After the memo to Council had been printed, Northwestern University stepped up with a $5,000 sponsorship leaving Evanston’s tab at just $5,000 (the Grand Prix has historically reimbursed the City for police, fire and parks department staff time spent on the event).
It was the right move. As Mr. Bobkiewicz told City Council Monday night, June 14, $5,000 spent in order to generate all the economic activity that occurs in downtown Evanston on and around race day is a “bargain.” The race brings about 20,000 spectators downtown, and those spectators spend in restaurants, stick around a bit to shop, maybe take in a movie, and most of them are coming to Evanston just for the race. Take away the race and the City loses much more than $5,000.
The City acted quickly and decisively, having learned of the matter on June 4. In less than 2 weeks, the problem had been solved and the Grand Prix will bring bicycles and spectators back to downtown Evanston on Sunday, July 18. Even in this trying budgetary times, spending $5,000 on something like the Grand Prix makes sense.