AKRON—Bridgestone Americas Inc. plans to build a dedicated race tire plant in Akron near its technical center to take the place of its existing race-tire unit in the original Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. Plant One building.
The decision coincides with Bridgestone's extending its Firestone race tire-supply contract with IndyCar Series for six additional seasons, through 2025, Cara Adams, chief engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports, said at a Feb. 6 news conference in Akron. Bridgestone has been IndyCar's tire supplier since 1996.
The Bridgestone Advanced Tire Production Center will be built adjacent to an existing tire-testing facility located a few blocks east of the company's seven-year-old Americas Technical Center in south Akron. Production could start as early as late 2020, Adams said, but the entire project will take about four years to complete.
Bridgestone at this time did not disclose details as to the size or investment but said the new plant would accommodate the 50 workers employed now in race tire manufacturing and that employment there could grow along with increased prototype tire production. The existing race tire unit occupies 100,000 square feet at the old Firestone factory.
Bridgestone had extended its lease with the city of Akron on the manufacturing space at the former Firestone headquarters in late 2016 for two more years. Akron had acquired the building in 2012 after Bridgestone had moved its research and development unit to a purpose-built facility a mile south.
The new plan involves a contract extension with the city of Akron to keep the race tire unit operating in the old Firestone headquarters building. The city at one time had planned to raze the structure, but city and county officials now say they are evaluating a number of different options for the 750,000-sq.-ft., five-story structure.
The decision to keep race tire production in Akron reflects the company's heritage in the city, said Nizar Trigui, Bridgestone Americas chief technology officer.
"The Akron community and race tire development have each played significant roles in our company's past, and they will continue to drive innovation for us in the future" he said.
IndyCar President Jay Frye lauded Bridgestone for its decision to make a "huge investment" in racing.
"This extension also reflects Firestone's commitment to helping to shape IndyCar's paddock-wide, five-year plan," he said.
The contract extension with IndyCar includes "comprehensive, season-long activation," Bridgestone said, including fan engagement, sponsorships and signage at multiple venues, "robust" social and digital media programs.
Bridgestone, through its Firestone brand, recently has secured the title sponsorship for the next two years for the season-ending race of the NTT IndyCar Series season, set for Sept. 20-22 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif.
Firestone also is the title sponsor of the season-opening race, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which will be held March 8-10 on the combined airport runway/city street course in St. Petersburg, Fla.