Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Champ Cars Take Flight In Cleveland

The La Salle Bank Grand Prix of Cleveland held on the runways and taxiways of the Burke Lakefront Airport, downtown Cleveland. Image Credit: Getty Images via CBS Sportsline

Champ Cars Take Flight In Cleveland
(Television Broadcast - CBS June 24, 1:00 pm ET)

The long, flat airport taxiways and runways make for one of the most exciting driver skill contested venues for an open-wheel event in Champ Car to be staged this year.

In Cleveland, the race is held on a working (but shut-down for the week-end) private aircraft airport right on the lakefront that the City of Cleveland resides on.

From Burke Lakefront Airport, the Cityscape of Cleveland acts a jewel of a backdrop with the Rock-N-Roll Hall Of Fame as a centerpiece.

The biggest attraction of the race venue has to be the track itself ... and in particular, Turn One on ANY start and restart.

The strightaway leading to the approach to Turn One is as wide as any concrete eight to ten lane freeway. The turn itself circles back to the other direction about 315 degrees onto a crossover to another runway heading back to the oposite direction.

As the Champ Cars and drivers head into Turn One, many are tempted to cut the corner short and take the shortest route to the apex, while others take a much higher line which allows one the hit the apex of the turn at a higher rate of speed.

The cars and drivers fan out and hope for the best. If a driver gets it right, they pass a few cars for position and get away clean ... if a driver gets it wrong? ...

... Well, here is the start of the race from last year where A.J. Allmendinger (currently racing in NASCAR) is able to just get past Sebastian Bourdais to maintain the pole starting position - Position One, while others will need assistance for a restart.

2006 Cleveland Grand Prix Race Start

This year may actually be the last race from Burke if some people in Cleveland have their way - and this would be very sad indeed. The Cleveland Grand Prix is one of just a few races that helped to define what it ment to BE a Champ Car venue. Really, it is right there with Long Beach, Elkhart Lake, and Toronto.

The Burke Lakefront Airport circuit in Cleveland, Ohio offers a challenging 2.106-mile, wide-open 10-turn race track. This will be the 26th time that the Champ Cars "Roar by the Shore". This event is the longest tenure of any temporary race venue on the Champ Car circuit.

Is it possible that the race in Cleveland will go the way of other great venues that were Champ Car staples like Ohio and Vancouver?

Excerpts from the Cleveland Plain Dealer -

What to do with Burke?
Its past as landfill complicates future

UPDATED: 10 :30 a.m. EDT, June 20, 2007 - Joan Mazzolini - Plain Dealer Reporter (originally published - Monday, April 23, 2007)

The vast expanse of land that makes up Burke Lakefront Airport has tantalized residents for decades as the last, best hope to give Cleveland a real lakefront, akin to Chicago, Milwaukee or Toronto.

And with two underperforming local airports -- Burke and Cuyahoga County -- the refrain from various quarters has long been to close Burke and merge operations.

But the hurdles to use Burke's 450 acres for a commercial center or housing or even a massive park are greater and more expensive than many realize.

While often called prime lakefront land, the reality is very different.

Most of Burke sits on garbage and dredge material. In fact, a Cleveland city dump since the time of horse-drawn wagons was located there and the garbage was burned until the 1950s.

Workers doing any digging on or near Burke are required to wear environmental hazmat suits because of the contamination, which includes PCBs, methane, oil, car tires and other debris.

Image Credit: Google Maps

Mike Hoyle, chief executive of Business Aircraft Group Inc., an aircraft management and sales company at Burke, doesn't believe the airport can be closed, both for the economic benefit it brings to Cleveland and for the simple reason that turning the land into a park would be too expensive.

City officials and others estimate that Burke contributes at least $100 million a year to the economy.

"You dig 4 feet and you're in sludge," Hoyle said. "My building sits on 6-foot-wide footers and it has settled 9 inches. You can't build a high-rise here."
But long before any new use of the land can even be considered, another question must be answered.

Can it be done? Can Burke, in fact, be closed?

That may be finally answered, with a master plan of the airport that Burke Commissioner Khalid Bahhur expects to be complete later this year.

It would finally answer the question of "does Burke stay or does it go?"

"If it stays, we'll be able to say here's why, and if it goes, here's why," Bahhur said.
If Burke goes, and the process could take years, a big question is where do the hospital helicopters, the Federal Reserve flights, the flight schools, corporate jets and others that use Burke go?

Some say other close-by reliever airports, such as Cuyahoga County, Lost Nation and Lorain County, could take portions. Of those, only Cuyahoga County has a control tower.
To close Burke, Cleveland would probably have to repay the Federal Aviation Administration $4.1 million in grants it received for airport upkeep.

But it might not be that simple.

The FAA could require Cleveland not just to move all operations to other airports, but could also require the city to reproduce Burke and its acreage at a different location.

"It's more than simply repaying the money," said FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro. "We would do an airspace study . . . to see what the consequences are and does this create more congestion.

"We can say 'No, you can't close this.' "

Longtime Burke Commissioner Mike Barth, who left to run Lorain County airport, said he believes you can give people more access and keep the airport.

Barth, who left in 1999 after 28 years at Burke, including 10 as the airport's commissioner, said dredged material should continue to be dumped at Burke, which would ultimately allow a runway to be added to the north.
"We all know the lakefront would be really prime land. We could have parks, entertainment, housing and retail," Dimora said.

"What land in the county isn't contaminated? You'll have to build with pilings," he said. "It's more difficult, more costly. But it's more desirable."
Read All>>

Hey! ... and then there is the Cleveland Grand Prix and all the commerce and attention this event brings into the Cleveland economy every year for the last 26 years ... where is the mention of this little tidbit of information?

Long live the Cleveland Grand Prix at the Burke Lakefront Airport circuit...

… notes from The EDJE.

(ht: MAXINE)