Montreal announced today that it will cancel its Formula E race weekend after last year’s race weekend cost taxpayers millions of dollars and left the organizers in debt, the CBC reports. Montreal mayor Valérie Plante claims that taxpayers would have to pay up to $35 million CAD ($27 million U.S.) to host the second running of the Montreal ePrix, and it didn’t make financial sense.
“Montrealers have made it clear that we can’t waste their money on poorly planned projects that don’t serve them,” Plante told the CBC.
Plante took office in November, and claims the previous mayor’s administration didn’t do enough due diligence before agreeing to host the Formula E round.
“It was clear as of last May that the organization was headed straight for a financial fiasco,” Plante told the CBC.
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The race was organized by the non-profit organization Montreal It’s Electric, which currently owes $6.2 million CAD ($4.8 million U.S.) to creditors and $9.5 million CAD ($7.4 million U.S.) to another line of credit from the city of Montreal itself, reports the CBC. On top of the existing overruns, the city had committed to spend $24 million CAD ($18.6 million U.S.) on the race over the next six years.
That $24 million CAD figure went towards building the track, race fees and other items that many other cities get covered with sponsorship, the CBC notes. However, Montreal opted to foot the bill themselves, which made their round unusual for using public funds. Formula E races in Berlin, Paris, New York, Monaco, Marrakesh and Hong Kong used no public funding at all.
Attendance was not great, having sold only 25,000 tickets. Organizers gave away 20,000 tickets to fill seats. Additionally, residents complained that track construction forced the closure of streets around the track for close to two weeks, the CBC reports. The frustration over the use of public funds, tied-up streets and poor ticket sales for the event played a significant role in outgoing mayor Denis Coderre’s defeat to Plante.
Originally, the idea of moving the race to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was floated, which seemed like a no-brainer. Formula E runs mostly on street circuits because they want to bring their races in to the people, yet they’ll run on circuits like the one in Mexico City if they’re close enough to the city center—which Montreal’s island circuit certainly is.
Formula E wasn’t willing to give Montreal a year to consider their options for moving the race to different streets or to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, according to the CBC’s report, so Montreal simply cancelled the race entirely.
Plante admitted to the CBC that she knew there would be some cost to cancelling the deal they had to host the race, but believes that it would be less expensive than continuing to work with organizers who were already unable to pay their bills. Organizers Montreal It’s Electric told the CBC that they would be working with Montreal to settle any outstanding debts and help negotiate the withdrawal of their three-year commitment to Formula E.
Meanwhile, Formula E still lists Montreal as their season-ending double-header on their calendar as of this writing but whoever was manning their Twitter account certainly seemed to notice Plante’s announcement:
UPDATE [12/19 7:45 a.m.]: Formula E could not give us any specifics as to what Montreal and its organizers might be paying in order to break off the race, or where (if anywhere) would be replacing Montreal on the calendar. Instead, they gave us the following statement from a spokesperson:
We are very surprised and disappointed by the unilateral decision and announcement of the Mayor of Montreal. This is a clear case of a new mayor undoing what the previous mayor did. Whilst there is a contract in place, we will not make further comments at this point as this is now in the hands of our Canadian legal counsel.