By on April 8, 2013

Say what?!

Public funding of stadiums, arenas and other privately promoted sports events is a financially dubious proposition for taxpayers, at least according to some critics of the phenomenon. I tend to agree. If an event isn’t sustainable on its own it’s not a good business deal. So I’m not that broken up about the fact that the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama has withdrawn his request for the city to cut a four year, $1.2 million deal with promoter Zoom Motorsports to at least partially underwrite the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama races scheduled to be run at Birmingham’s Barber Motorsports Park. The mayor decided not to go forward with the deal after the Birmingham city council was deadlocked on the issue. A majority of the council was in favor of supporting the race with money and in-kind services, but the mayor and the council president have sparred over particulars of the deal, like the length of the proposed contract. In addition, Councilman Steven Hoyt, a backer of “diversity” initiatives, inflamed the debate with his comments about race from the council dais, implying that blacks have no interest in motorsports.

“It concerns me greatly that we’re supporting something that doesn’t support our citizens. I have seen nobody that looks like me making decisions at Barber motor sports. None. Zero. The buses that I’ve seen [going to Barber Motorsports Park] don’t come from Birmingham. They are from Hoover [a Birmingham suburb] and other areas.”

The racetrack and the adjacent Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum are the gift (the track and museum operate as a 501C3 non-profit) of George Barber, whose family owned the oldest dairy in Alabama. Barber raced Porsches rather successfully in the 1970s and the facility, which cost about $80 million to build, started out as Barber’s private collection and playground. The collection includes both racing cars and motorcycles. When it opened, the museum was said to be the first museum exclusively devoted to motorsports. John Surtees, who won world racing championships on both two wheels and four, called it the world’s best motorcycle collection, with about 1,000 bikes in the collection, half of which are on display. The bikes and race cars are almost all restored and kept in operating condition so they can participate in vintage racing. Barber built the museum, no doubt as a monument to himself, as these things tend to be, but he also had Birmingham’s civic needs in mind. He had the means to locate it in a city with a significant tourist trade, but he hoped that the facility, and later the track which opened to the public in 2003 and has since hosted top road racing series, would draw visitors to Birmingham much as site of the Masters’ Tournament brings tourists to Augusta. Birmingham has no major league sports teams and the Indycar race is the largest sporting event in town.

About 80,000 people attend the Indycar race every year and the local convention bureau says that it generates aboout $26 million in economic activity in the area. Though the $300K was supposed to go towards the sanctioning fees charged by the Indycar series, it appears as if the lack of public funding will not stop the annual event. Just before today’s race started, Indycar CEO Jeff Belskus and head of ZOOM Motorsports Gene Hallman announced a deal that will bring the top American open wheel racing series to Birmingham until at least 2016.

Hoyt’s remarks were not just a crude playing of the race card, in light of Barber’s civic mindedness they’re incredibly small minded. I’m quite sure that if George Barber had said that only people who “look like me” were welcome to his facility, Hoyt would have been outraged and there would have been press conferences replete with Reverands Sharpton and Jackson, but since the person who actually said something about people looking like him looks like him, there will be no protests. I’m not sure if people who think like Hoyt does can have their minds changed by things like facts, and I know he’s proud of the fact that he’s not a motorsports fan, as though it’s a point of racial pride, but if he’s got some spare time, next month just a couple hundred miles down the road from Birmingham, Antron Brown will be defending his NHRA Top Fuel championship at the NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Georgia. I’m not much of a drag racing fan, I’d more likely be at Barber Motorsports Park than Atlanta Dragway, but I’d pay money to watch Councilman Hoyt explain to Brown how black people don’t like motorsports.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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28 Comments on “Birmingham City Councilman Injects Race Into Debate Over Race...”

  • avatar

    ^^^^This black poster just bought a MotoGP online season pass, so he is not 100% right.

    It is stupid that he brought race into it, but ultimately if his constituents don’t want it he has to represent them. Plus its not like the event needs their money anyway.

  • avatar

    If the City of B’ham had a major sports franchise such as football, the council would soon find out that a lot of the ticket holders are from the suburbs.

    While many of those ticket holders may not be constituents – weekend events do tend to draw in folks, who normally wouldn’t visit the city on a Saturday or Sunday, to spend money while they are there. In addition to the stimulus to the private sector, throw in some sales tax and concession fees into the equation.

  • avatar

    Anton Brown and James Stewart may be the exception that proves the rule as far as motorsports, but go to any city in North America on a mild summer evening and I guarantee you will see plenty of people who “look like [Hoyt]” enjoying their motorcycles.

  • avatar

    Pfft.. I’ve been white as long as I can remember and I’ve never cared for motorsports. Mr. Hoyt does me an injury.

  • avatar

    In the new America everything must be understood through the prism of race.

  • avatar

    The Black in me says, “They’re making left turns for 4 hours. This isn’t sports, it’s being a UPS driver”

    The White in me says, “SHUT YER MOUTH, DANICA!”

    The Injun in me weeps at lost land.

  • avatar

    Steven Hoyt is an idiot. His “research” was looking at the website and deciding it’s not black enough. Seriously, he’s said it several times on recent radio interviews. He’s fine with spending public money for majority black events and has done so on numerous occasions. The guy is just a fool.

    As far as why the mayor withdrew funding at the last minute, there was a nice twist in the contract which would have obligated the City to pay for the next 4 years @ 300K per year. The agenda item for the contract was listed to show only a 300K obligation for this year. This year’s contribution was budgeted and slated to be approved on the agenda, but the addition on another 4 years to the item without notification required the item to be withdrawn and rescheduled for the next meeting.

    They will get their donation for this year when they break up the contract and submit it correctly.

    One final note. George didn’t built the park as a monument to himself, he’s got the largest collection of bikes in the world, but the old warehouses just didn’t allow for more than a small display. He finally decided to try and get them all displayed in a single spot instead of keeping them in warehouse storage and just rotating the collection. He’s actually a really private individual, and has done a great deal for the city without requesting much in return.

    • 0 avatar

      I meant Mr. Barber no disrespect, he’s built a very cool facility. As I said, he also seems civic minded. Most of the people that I’ve met who own collections of cool automobiles (and bikes) generally want to share them one way or another with other people. I know that a couple of the big private collections around here (100+ concours level and rare cars) will host charity events. Years ago when Richard Kughn had his Carail private museum of cars, toys and model trains (he also owned the Lionel brand for a while) I was at a fundraising event there.

  • avatar

    First off I think public-private sporting event partnerships are one of the worst ideas ever dreamed up but this isnt even a rounding error with the football stadium giveaways that are routinely into the Billions of taxpayer dollars.

    That said I would also oppose it but it’s both pathetic and telling that when the veil is occasionally allowed to slip, identity politics is alive and well on both sides of the racial divide. Cause God knows The Most Important Thing is that we make sure that the attendees “look like us” before deciding on the merits of supporting it.

    Despicable behavior in an elected official.

  • avatar

    Mr. Hoyt may have spoken inartfully, but in any case Birmingham is better off not funding such a venture.

  • avatar

    I’d have preferred to see a case made against public funding for sporting events rather than another effort at ingraining divisive racism. If the event really brings 26 million dollars of increased economic activity to the area, then the large beneficiaries should sponsor the event. Hoyt playing the race card just shows he doesn’t have his constituents’ interests at heart, as surely many of them benefit from 80,000 people coming to spend their leisure dollars in Birmingham. I’ve worked in the sort of job that benefits from these types of events. They often meant the addition of another month’s worth of income over the course of a week for people in the service sector.

    Maybe more blacks in Birmingham will develop an interest in motorsports as a result of Indy cars racing in Birmingham. A local race might inspire locals to turn on the TV one year, which might inspire them to attend the next. It really is one of the best racing circuits, and the Indy cars look spectacular there.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I think someone should introduce Mr. Hoyt to Willy T. Ribbs…

  • avatar

    I knew it.

    As soon as I saw the phrase “race card”, I knew this was going to be another right-wing biased hit piece.

    Keep it up TTAC. I’ll go elsewhere for car news that aren’t overlapped with the deranged rantings of Infowars readers.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you saying that nobody ever makes a false accusation of racism?

      As for the post being “right wing”, I don’t believe that I took any partisan or ideological position. I don’t think it’s a right or left wing thing to say that insisting that black people don’t go to car races or enjoy motorsports is stupid and itself a bit racist. Does Mr. Hoyt think that blacks have no interest in golf, tennis or gymnastics as well as motorsports?

      How is this a “biased hit piece”? You made the charge, now defend it. Mr. Hoyt made the racial remarks and I reported them accurately. Are you defending Hoyt’s remarks? Do you agree with him? Were his remarks appropriate? Are you saying that black folks don’t like motorsports? Do you know how to debate without resorting to namecalling?

      • 0 avatar

        You put out troll-bait in the form of mentioning the “race card”. The usual suspects took the bait. You even had a guy complaining about the “New America” that was full of shit.

        Mr.Hoyt doesn’t speak for all african americans in his area and that part is definitely racist.

        But do we need a circus of troll comments like the “New America” guy?

    • 0 avatar

      As the duly elected Chairman of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, I’m saddened to report the musings from the good folks at TTAC are neutral at best (the rest of us may vary). I’ve found Ronnie’s professional reputation is beyond reproach.

      Mr. Hoyt’s own quotes indict him, not the journalism: “The buses that I’ve seen [going to Barber Motorsports Park] don’t come from Birmingham. They are from Hoover [a Birmingham suburb] and other areas.” So if the NBA decided to relocate, is Hoyt’s counterpart from Hoover going to get on television and complain about all the buses coming through his suburb heading to play in Birmingham? Hoyt is leaning toward racist with such a comment… where are the pundits to condemn him? We’ve seen these slip ups before from both sides, but golly somehow its always ok, no problem when its NOT coming out of the lips of a registered Republican or Independent. I respect a devoted racist better than a hypocrite, at least you know where the racist stands and he’s not ashamed of it.

    • 0 avatar


      Ronnie Schreiber a right-winger?

      If only you could be that funny when you intend to be.

  • avatar

    In Birmingham, they love the governor (boo boo boo)
    Now we all did what we could do
    Now Watergate does not bother me
    Does your conscience bother you?
    Tell the truth

  • avatar

    I’m thanking the lord almighty for me not cracking a semi-racist what-you-talking-’bout-blacks-not-liking-motorsports?-joke, ending with, I-watched-driving-miss-Daisy-and-he-sure-as-hell-was-trying-to-outrun-that-old-Biatch-but-ultimately-won-du-to-team-orders-mandating-that-he-cross-the-line-first.
    And not cracking the other, highly racist, joke, about blacks loving motorsports: ‘Cause I see them racing all the time, they must be really bad at it though, as they’re always in front of the pace car on “Cops”.

    Seriously, I’m glad that I’m not a bigot and thereby able to not crack those jokes. If it were nascar I’d see his point, it can’t be fun being a black man hosting an event were 2/3 of those in attendance has a confederate flag tattoo and a dog named Jim Crow. But Indycar? That’s motorsport for the liberal elite, there’s even a couple of foreign word in the events name, instead of brand of cancerogenic snack food. If you want, you could say that indycar is the freedom rider of motorsports, bringing refinement, foreign words and white people without “jr” in their name to the south.

    Doesn’t this guy even know that Marco Andretti’s full name is Marco Madea Andretti? That alone assures a huge black crowd and no whites in attendance.

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