Sunday, June 10, 2007

Now THAT would be cool

I had a chance to chat with Jim Hutsman today. He’s the CEO of the All-American Soap Box Derby. He told me that the public really only got half of the story last week about the $$ the city put up to help the AASBD pay its bills.

Like most folks, I was under the impression that Akron City Council okayed giving $600K in royalties from a few gas wells to the derby because the leaders needed a bail out because the NASCAR sponsorship had fallen short. Like many, I took City Council to task (see my blog post below; Huntsman certainly did) because it seemed like a lot of $$ with very little time for debate. Huntsman tells me that those dollars were already headed to the derby and that AASBD leaders simply asked for an advance against the royalties they were already guaranteed. That’s a big difference from the original story. That means that the dollars aren’t being taken away from any other program, and this is really no different than a great many other business deals out there.

Huntsman also enlightened me to the cities out there that have silently made it known that they’d like to steal the AASBD for their communities. Indianapolis and Daytona to name a few (not that either of those places know anything about racing, ha!). Honestly, I can’t imagine the “gravity grand prix” (thanks for that one Joe) anywhere else but Akron. Still, when you consider the $3 million per year that comes to town with the 600 families who flood Akron on race week, you can see why other cities would love the deal.

My favorite part of my chat with Jim was his vision of adding a second track at Derby Downs for --- wait for it --- ADULT racing. He says there are special cars made overseas that would be great for a grown-up track here in Akron. He says the track would have special curves and be a big draw. As a derby dad, I know there are kids who reach 18 who would like to continue to live their glory days at Topside. Right now, it’s just an idea, but you gotta admit, adult soap box derby cars could be pretty cool.

A few other notes from today:

I met Kelly Albertoni of Hartville this morning. Actually, she’s only ‘from’ Hartville; she ‘lives’ in Hollywood (the city, not the Akron street). Odds are you’ve seen Kelly on TV without realizing it. She’s a regular on NBC’s “ER” as one of the staff nurses. She’s also a regular in the casinos of “Las Vegas” and has been seen in a lesser role on “Desperate Housewives” as Bree’s younger sister (once you see her red hair you’ll understand why she’s in demand). Kelly tells me that she’s hoping for a future in sports broadcasting and that one of the Cleveland stations will give her a shot. Anyway, keep your eyes open for her on a TV screen near you.

I’m still laughing about the car I saw early this morning driving around East Akron. It had “just married” written in some kind of paint on the side, but the wedding party didn’t stop there. The entire car was covered in playful, teasing, wedding speak. I don’t know which one I liked better. The back quarter panel that read “I hope this comes off” or the trunk that read “It’s to let to turn back now.” Nothing like a best man who can’t spell eh?


Tim said...

What?! The ABJ leaving out important details in a story?! Say it ain't so! (I hope the sarcasm is evident in the previous) I am getting more and more annoyed with them lately. It's almost to the point that I'd rather read the Leader for local news (there is still you, of course.)

The idea of an adult derby is cool though.


PS. BTW, is it true the BJ gets subsidies from the city?

Eric Mansfield said...

Hi Tim
The head of the AASBD told me that he made the info just as clear to the ABJ, but the reporter didn't really pay attention. You have to admit, it's a much different story when you know all the facts.
I think the adult derby could be both competitive and also just like a fun park. Most adults wouldn't want to build a car, but the idea of paying a few bucks to drive one down a big hill a few times could be a neat experience.
Not sure about the subsdies. The C of A and the ABJ work together on community projects but beyond that I'm not sure. There might be a deal in place regarding that long building on Broadway Avenue (across from the ABJ); something tells me the city gives the paper a deal there. I'll check it out.