Rocket sport ready for TV

Smith inks exclusive prod'n deal with new racing league

“Hell’s Kitchen” producer A. Smith & Co. has sealed an exclusive deal to head up production for the nascent Rocket Racing League — think Indy cars, but with rocket fuel and in the sky.

Shingle topper Arthur Smith, the former head of Fox Sports Net and a CBC Network Sports vet, has already put together a plan to televise the sport, which would involve the planes competing across a race track in the air. The course lines will be visible to viewers at home via the same kind of technology that superimposes the first-down yellow line in NFL games.

“I feel like ‘The Jetsons’ has arrived,” Smith said of the space-age sport. “We’re combining all the thrill and excitement of racing with these rocket powered planes.

“You couldn’t have done this a few years ago, because the technology for the rockets wasn’t there,” he said. “And you couldn’t do it justice because the TV production values weren’t there. But where we are in TV coverage and where they are in aeronautics, it’s the right time.”

The Rocket Racing League hopes to hold its first official races in fall 2007. In the meantime, the sport will start pitching TV outlets in the coming weeks. League prexy-CEO Granger Whitelaw said he hopes to secure a contract with one of the major networks for Sunday afternoon races, with Saturday qualifying races airing on a cable outlet.

“We put together a shortlist of who we thought were the top producers who could handle a large-scale sports event,” Whitelaw said. “We thought there was nobody who had more experience in the sports side and the reality side than Arthur. He’s been instrumental in helping us design the sport so it fits well on TV and the Internet, as well as different technology platforms.”

Under the pact, A. Smith & Co. will be the only producers for all Rocket Racing League properties.

“We’ve been approached with other sports ideas — golf with a bigger hole, or basketball for short people,” Smith said. “But this is the first time we’ve said, ‘Yes, we want to be involved.’ ”

“If you’re in the stands, you’ll be able to watch on a hand-held unit and see all the details of the race,” Smith said. “And at home, you’ll go on a Web site and compete along with the racers.”

Whitelaw and Peter Diamandis — founder of the X Prize — are behind the Rocket Racing League.

Smith’s recent credits also include “Skating With Celebrities,” “The Swan,” “Paradise Hotel,” “Celebrity Duets” and “Pat Croce: Moving In.”

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