AVONDALE, La. - IndyCar racing officials expressed confidence on Monday that the NOLA Motorsports Park will be able to complete more $4.5 million in improvements needed to host the proposed Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana in suburban New Orleans next year.
"IndyCar is on the rise and we are determined to be in great markets in this country and eventually throughout the world," IndyCar chief Mark Miles said in an announcement at the track on Monday. "We have no doubt this will be one of the great venues for Indy Car racing in very little time."
Gov. Bobby Jindal, joined by officials from the track and Andretti Sports Marketing, said the race is expected to be locked into the IndyCar schedule for "at least three years, though the goal is to make this a permanent event."
Ongoing negotiations include scheduling a weekend for the event, which would also affect the timeline for track improvements that Miles said are needed for "safety, fan enjoyment and quality of racing."
Jindal will need state Legislative approval for $4.5 million, which will be combined with private money to make improvements, including pit area, straight away and perimeter fencing enhancements. Organizers estimated as many as 80,000 spectators attending over the three-day event, which is slated to include a "racing festival" including live music and other entertainment.
"This is great news for Jefferson Parish and our entire state," Jindal said. "This three-day event would allow us to show off the excitement of an IndyCar race right here in Louisiana, as well as our state's culture, entertainment and food. This event will be a great economic driver."
The NOLA Motorsports Park, a private, $60 million facility about 14 miles southwest of downtown New Orleans, features a 2.75-mile road course that has already hosted AMA motorcycle racing and developmental levels of open-wheel auto racing including the Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 series.
The track is owned by Dr. Laney Chouest, whose family founded and operates Edison Chouest Offshore, reputedly one of the world's leading builders and operators of sea vessels specially designed to service the offshore oil and gas industries.
"We wouldn't be here without the vision of Dr. Laney Chouest," Jindal said. "He's built this beautiful facility as a labour of love and today we're seeing one of the benefits to the state."
Chouest thanked Jindal for supporting a "public-private partnership that will leverage the significant private investment we made into this facility."
Organizers were confident enough in the event's success that they launched an Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana website, indynola.com, which referred to the event as, "Inevitable."
"I'm really pleased to see IndyCar preparing to bring a race to NOLA," said former racer Michael Andretti, CEO of Andretti Sports Marketing. "New Orleans is a great market to grow the sport and I'm excited to have Andretti Sports Marketing involved with the operations and promotion of the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana."
IndyCar, which includes the Indianapolis 500 as its marquee event, is the premier American-based open-wheel racing series.
Currently, the series' drivers include Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, who are former Indy 500 winners, as well as Marco Andretti, the grandson of former racing great Mario Andretti, and Graham Rahal, son of 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal.
AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report