Vancouver is refunding the $500,000 deposit for a major international electric car race that was supposed to have happened earlier this month before organizers pulled out.
The two-day event was scheduled to start on July 2, and included a Nickelback concert, before being cancelled by its organizer, One Stop Strategy (OSS) Group, who have previously said it would be rescheduled to next year.
But four weeks after the cancelled event’s original date, ticket-holders have complained about not receiving refunds. The city said its repayment of the organizer’s performance security payment for the event is contingent on giving fans their money back.
It was to be the first Formula E event in the city, and promoted as an economic boon, selling thousands of tickets to the False Creek-area races.
One of those fans waiting for a refund is Andrew Chobaniuk, who said he could not get any response after repeated request from organizers and ended up reporting it to his credit card company.
It reimbursed him the $210 he paid for four tickets to see the Vancouver races.
“Absolutely no word from the Formula E organizers despite numerous emails to them,” he told CBC News in an email. “Received a refund from my credit card company pending an investigation.”
“It’s disappointing — you look forward to car racing finally making a return to Vancouver after all these years, and you’re left feeling swindled. Given the lack of communication from the organizers … I have no faith in OSS at all.”
One Stop Strategy Group did not respond to multiple requests for comment Friday.
Decision came ‘after intensive review’ with city
On Friday, the city said its deposit return would have “no financial impacts” on its budget, and was only made on the condition that “that the funds be used by OSS to pay its financial obligations” including refunding ticket-holders, suppliers, or event sponsors.
“Questions about funds being paid or refunded by OSS to ticket-holders, suppliers, sponsors, and/or other potential creditors should be directed to OSS,” the city said in a release.
On April 22, the city announced that the event’s organizers called off the event, exercising their rights under the Host City Agreement. At the time, the city said in a statement it hopes “to announce a new date in the near future.”
At the time of the cancellation, OSS said the “incredibly difficult” decision came “after intensive review” with the city.
“Delivery of a world-class event is of the utmost importance” to the group, it said, promising to communicate with ticket-holders “to inform [them of] their options.”
Coun. Michael Wiebe co-sponsored a motion last year that supported hosting the event the city.
“I know the management company didn’t work here, but I still believe it can be a great event,” he said in an interview Friday. “It was going to be a big weekend, I’m disappointed because it’s an opportunity for Vancouver.”
He stepped aside from voting on the city-issued deposit refund because he himself bought tickets to the cancelled event, and is now among the thousands who have not yet received a refund.
“I haven’t yet, but I’ll wait in the back of the line,” Wiebe said. “I want to make sure the people that really deserve the funding are getting it.
“We’re saying, ‘If you are going to take the $500,000 return, there are certain people that need to be paid, and the funding can only go to specific things … That includes ticket-holders, suppliers and others.”
The Formula E races have been controversial in other cities.
In 2017, Montreal city officials announced they would pull the plug on a Formula E race that was set to take place in that city the following year.
The mayor said the event was “headed straight for a financial fiasco,” and that taxpayers would be on the hook for $35 million.
But one year ago, the City of Montreal agreed to pay a settlement of $3 million to Formula E Operations, which puts on electric car races around the world. It had sued the city for $16 million after the city cancelled their events in 2018 and 2019.
Formula E isn’t the organizer of the Vancouver event, though it appears to have a degree of oversight with regard to the OSS Group-promoted race, which is part of the Formula E series.