30,000 tickets sold for Vancouver Formula E event 100 days out, organizers say

Organizers plan to build E-Fest into “a staple event” on Vancouver’s annual calendar. But lots of work remains before the checkered flag flies.

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One hundred days out from Vancouver’s first Formula E event, organizers say early ticket sales have been brisk, but much work remains ahead of what they call a first-of-its-kind event for the world of electric car racing.

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On Canada Day long weekend this year Vancouver is set to host the electric car event, called Canadian E-Fest, joining other destinations including Berlin, Rome, Monaco and New York in the Formula E Championship calendar.

“I just got off a call with Formula E earlier this morning, and they can’t believe we have this many tickets sold with still three months to go” said Anne Roy, a co-founder and partner of One Stop Strategy Group, or OSS, the company promoting and organizing E-Fest. “All their other races, the tickets get sold at the last minute.”

Reached Wednesday in Montreal, 101 days before race day, Roy said more than 30,000 tickets have been sold. Suites were “almost sold out,” she said, “so we might have to build extra hospitality suites.”

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Vancouver’s E-Fest will stand out from other Formula E races, with its focus on creating an entire “festival weekend,” Roy said. In addition to the race, on Saturday, July 2, E-Fest will also include a sustainability business conference, an e-sports tournament, and live music, with rockers Nickelback announced last month.

But it hasn’t been easy getting to this point, especially during COVID-19, Roy said. “It’s a lot of work, though, I have to tell you… It has not been smooth-sailing.”

Now, though, Roy says: “Everything is on-track.”

The event has been in the works for years, but now is crunch-time for several details to fall into place.

Vancouver confirmed this week that the city and event organizers signed a “host city agreement” in February. The city’s special events department hasn’t yet issued a permit for the race or any of its components including the Nickelback concert, the city confirmed, but would look to issue a permit after the organizers submit several planning documents, including a safety and security plan , a traffic management plan, community benefits agreement and outdoor concert licensing. Contractually, those and other documents are due by 95 days before the event, which is Monday, March 28, the city said.

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“The issuance of a special event permit will be contingent upon these documents being delivered, reviewed and approved by the city’s Film and Special Events Office,” the city statement said this week. “Planning complex events take more effort in their first year, and the city is monitoring progress closely and is in frequent contact with the event organizer to help ensure everything is in order in time for the event.”

Roy is a car racing veteran, inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2020. She spent 20 years with the IndyCar Series, including the Molson Indy Vancouver races that brought some of the world’s top drivers to some of the same parts of East False Creek in the 1990s and 2000s.

Roy says Vancouverites should rest assured this year’s E-Fest will not repeat the problems of the 2017 Formula E event in Montreal, which became a major political issue and controversy. The city’s inspector-general reported in 2018 that former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre had ignored legal advice and circumvented the rules to bring the Formula E event to town.

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Many Montrealers were frustrated at the biggest over the 2017 event, Montreal Gazette city columnist Allison Hanes wroteand “had their say at the ballot box” later that year, voting in Coderre’s rival, current Mayor Valérie Plante.

Plant called the Montreal ePrix a “financial fiasco” and canceled the next two planned years, prompting the Formula E group to sue the largest and city for $33 million, The Gazette reportedwith the city settling in July 2021 for $3 million.

Roy, who worked on the Montreal Formula E event after Coderre’s office brought her on as a race consultant, said the difference between Montreal’s 2017 Formula E event and Vancouver’s 2022 event is that this year “the deal is between OSS and Formula E.”

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“Formula E didn’t do a deal directly with the City (of Vancouver). Because if that was the case, the city would have had to pay a huge amount to Formula E to get that event,” Roy said. “That money comes out of our pocket, we’re the ones paying for that. So I think Vancouver’s pretty lucky to have a big event like that free-of-charge.”

The City of Vancouver confirmed it isn’t an official partner of E-Fest.

When city council discussed the prospect of a Formula E event at an June 2021 meeting, councilors and staff discussed the importance of ensuring Vancouver wasn’t financially on the hook. Council approved a motion, introduced by independent Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, directing city staff to work with the OSS Group to enable the Formula E event in July 2022, with “costs to be borne by the organizer, and all city service costs to be recoverable from the organizer.”

The vision is to create “more than just a race,” Roy says. “The plan is to make this a staple event on the calendar for Vancouver every year.”

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