The eThekwini Municipality ratepayers will pay more than R15 million to host the Top Gear festival for the next three years, despite objections from opposition parties.

However, Durban will only hold the event if the province forks out the other half of the R31 million needed to stage it.

On Tuesday the council’s executive committee, during a special meeting, approved a proposal to host the event on condition that the province “meets us half way”.

Earlier this month, outgoing city manager Mike Sutcliffe tabled a report to the committee proposing that Moses Mabhida stadium be turned into a race track over three days in June next year for the event that would feature the popular Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

The popular character known as The Stig also makes an appearance.

Despite eThekwini deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala amending the proposal to include a proviso that the province pays half the infrastructure costs, the DA and the Minority Front opposed it.

DA caucus leader Tex Collins, who abstained from the vote, said that the A1 Grand Prix which the city hosted between 2006 and 2008 was an “unmitigated disaster”.

“I fear the same thing will occur here. It just does not make sense to turn Moses Mabhida into a race track.”

Collins said the A1 Grand Prix did not benefit the city’s ratepayers but had disrupted the beachfront and had created a lot of noise for residents.

“I don’t believe that province must meet us halfway, they must pay the lot,” he said.

The Minority Front’s Patrick Pillay said that there were no proper reports on the spin-offs of hosting such events.

“We want to know what value for money does the ratepayer reap from hosting such events? There are no reports that show us (the value for money). The city does not have permanent tracks and we need to look at developing infrastructure. We will not support the recommendations,” he said.

The Top Gear festival was held in Gauteng over the past two years with the first event taking place at Dome in Randburg in 2010 and at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in March this year.

Johannesburg residents complained about the festival being badly organised and exorbitant ticket prices. Gauteng had charged between R250 and R495 for tickets.

Lindiwe Kwele, CEO of Joburg Tourism which marketed the festival, said neither them nor the city had a contract with Top Gear.

Asked if she was disappointed that the festival would be moving to Durban, she said: “Not really.”

Kwele said that it made no sense for Gauteng to get involved unless there was a dedicated motorsport body that promoted the sport.

“Without a structured approach it is difficult to peg a value on what motorsport brings into a city,” she said.

As the host city, Durban would ensure that infrastructure was in place and the province would provide the event fee and operational cost. Top Gear’s nominated licensor would manage the event.

If approved, the agreement would be for three years.

The report states that R10m would be required for the first year, while R8m would be needed for the operating costs.

A further R7m would be needed for operating costs in 2013 and R8m for 2014.

An estimated R4.5m would be required in the first year for minor roadworks as well as establishing circuit protection and safety measures to allow the track to be approved by Motorsport South Africa.

In the subsequent two years, R2.5m would be expected each year to establish and de-establish the race track.

Next year’s event is expected to be staged between June 15-17.

According to the document, the stadium would need to be modified to accommodate the skid-pan and stunt circuit.

Other costs include R1.5m to provide staircases to make the existing pedestrian bridge functional and R1.3m a year for metro police and other line department support.

Source: iol.co.za

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