After last season’s Canadian Grand Prix, the FIA governing body stipulated that should Montreal hope to keep its Formula One event, that the outdated paddocks would need a face lift.
The Mayor at the time, Denis Coderre, had concerns over the cost of such a rebuild. An estimated $30 million dollar investment would be needed to restructure the storied race track to the standards of the FIA. In the time since the last race, Coderre lost his election to current Mayoress, Valérie Plante.
One of the very first actions Plante undertook in her new position, was to axe the Formula E event that had but one lap around the city. An unpopular decision to Canadian racing aficionado’s – making today’s announcement that the plan to update the race track was green lit, and at elevated cost of nearly double the original tab, all the more perplexing.
The new plan is estimated to cost $59.9 million dollars, and increase seating around the course, as well.
On Wednesday, Plante told reporters, ‘The Formula One is well established in Montrealers’ hearts and as well as for tourists’ and that ‘the renovations originally announced in 2015 would be much more extensive. It is an investment that will bring much more back to the city’.
The tourism impact on the city is great and it makes economic sense with Montreal being one of the top four race hosts with the highest attendance. “The impacts have been measured. We’ve re-measured them again and it’s a decision that economically makes sense,” said member of the executive committee responsible for large parks, Luc Ferrandez. “Fifty-two per cent of visitors to the Grand Prix are from outside Montreal.”
According to the Société du Parc Jean‑Drapeau (SPJD) who made the commitment to renovate and expand the Circuit Gilles‑Villeneuve as part of the renewal of the agreement to stage the Canadian Grand Prix from 2015 to 2029 – ‘the current infrastructure has exceeded its serviceable lifespan and in need of an upgrade. Formula One World Championship requirements have changed substantially since the first Grand Prix in 1978, particularly in terms of hosting the F1 teams and the technological needs related to the garages, control tower and media areas’.
Given the degree to which Plante recognizes the touristic attraction that the Formula One weekend is to the city of Montreal; it seems premature to have welched on a contract to bring back the Formula E event, that given time to grow, might have become as popular a tourist attraction as its FIA counterpart.