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Grand Prix track construction to start July 30

Organizers of the Grand Prix of Baltimore plan to construct the race track in 32 days, working during the night to make the 12-turn, 2-mile circuit come together.

While Tony Cotman acknowledged that the race track construction will cause inconveniences, he said the goal is to make each year better.

Construction will begin near the intersection of Light and Conway streets on July 30, said Tony Cotman, president and founder of NZR Consulting, the Indianapolis-based race circuit design and event management company that is handling the construction.

About a dozen people will work on the circuit from about 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., with the majority of the work taking place in the 22 days before the event, he said. In its second year, the Grand Prix is operated by Baltimore-based Race On LLC and promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing. The event takes place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

While Cotman’s company was pulled in at the last minute to oversee the construction of last year’s course, this year it will have more than two months to prepare.

The city on May 16 approved a five-year contract with Race On. The deal with Race On replaced an agreement with Downforce Racing LLC, which was terminated just months after the company was awarded the contract to run the race in its second year, because it failed to meet several city-imposed benchmarks.

Downforce replaced Baltimore Racing Development LLC — organizer of the 2011 race — after that group left in its wake about $12 million in accrued debt, including $1.5 million in unpaid taxes and fees.

Building the race track consists of installing cement barriers, safety fencing, grandstands and other infrastructure. The track is surrounded by 2,200 cement blocks, each 40 inches high, 20 inches wide, 12 feet long and weighing 9,000 pounds.

Only five of the blocks can fit on a truck at a time, and will be continuously brought to the build site during the nightly construction, Cotman said.

The Baltimore Orioles will play 17 home games during the 32-day construction schedule, including seven games in a row leading up to the start of the Labor Day weekend racing event.

On those days, construction won’t start until after the game. The southern part of the track passes Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

“Our entire focus this year is that Baltimore is open for business,” said Tim Mayer, general manager of the Baltimore Grand Prix.

While Cotman acknowledged that the construction will cause inconveniences, he said the goal is to make each year better. That includes doing things such as moving grandstands so that they do not block sidewalks.

The path of the race will remain the same, but the designers are making some tweaks to the track to improve visibility for fans. The biggest change will be the removal of a series of curves, known as a chicane, along the track’s main straightaway along Pratt Street, Cotman said. That will allow the drivers a better opportunity for passing.

The organizers are also hoping to make pedestrian traffic flow more easily on event days by installing 30 gates that will allow fans to move about the complex more easily, right up until race time.

“We’re really aiming the construction to do two things — No. 1, to make it a bit more convenient for our guests with the addition of gates, but also in the scheduling of the construction, and kind of the aggressive timeline, compressed timeline, we’re trying to make it more convenient for the entire city,” Mayer said.