A Towering Landmark for Formula One Track
By FRED A. BERNSTEIN, The New York Times
November 15, 2012, 3:35 pm
Mr. Miró and Miguel Rivera, partners in Austin’s Miró Rivera Architects, got to design more than grandstands and ticket booths; their work includes a 250-foot observation tower made of thousands of steel pipes, painted red, as if to mimic the streaks of lights trailing racecars at night. The tower, with two winding stairways and a high-speed elevator, culminates in a beaklike protrusion that extends over the track, offering views of the action below through its glass floor.
Bobby Epstein, co-founder of Circuit of the Americas, said he hoped the tower would become a landmark, making the track instantly recognizable to TV viewers. He declined to give the price of the tower, except to say that the steel alone “cost two or three million dollars” and that he expected it to become a revenue-producing tourist attraction.
Texas Taxpayers Finance Formula One Auto Races as Schools Dismiss Teachers
By Darrell Preston and Aaron Kuriloff, Bloomberg News
May 11, 2011 12:43 PM ET
As many as 100,000 teachers in Texas may be fired because of spending cuts to cope with the state’s budget crisis, according to Moak Casey & Associates, an Austin-based education consultant. For $25 million a year, the state could pay more than 500 teachers an average salary of $48,000.
If the financing works as projected, the decision will use $250 million in state tax revenue for the races over 10 years.
“With places struggling, spending that much money on an essentially one-off event is tough to do,” said Michael Cramer, a former president of baseball’s Texas Rangers and hockey’s Dallas Stars who runs the sports and media program at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s a very high cost of entry.”
Formula One racing attracts the wealthy who sponsor teams and draws fans from around the world, said Zak Brown, chief executive officer of Just Marketing Inc., an agency based in Zionsville, Indiana. JMI, as it’s known, focuses on motorsports.
“It’s a lifestyle of the rich and famous,” Brown said in a telephone interview. “The whole industry has a lot of wealth around it, a lot of politics.”
The cost of holding races has made it too expensive for sponsors without a public subsidy, said Mark Cipolloni, president of AutoRacing1 Inc. in Robbinsville, New Jersey. The company runs a website that covers motorsports.
“It isn’t cost-effective for an independent race,” Cipolloni said. “Most races in major cities wouldn’t be held without public support.”
The state’s $25 million is being paid to London-based Formula One Management Ltd. to hold the race in Austin, Sexton said. Formula One, owned by London-based CVC Capital Partners Ltd., a private-equity firm, is run by Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive officer of the series.
“It’s going to Mr. Ecclestone and Formula One to get them to bring the event here,” Sexton said.
Paying such a fee goes beyond the intended use of the state fund, which was set up to support bringing annual events to Texas by rebating increased taxes they generate to cover costs including security and traffic control, said Richard Viktorin, an accountant with Audits in the Public Interest. The Austin- based group opposes government support for the races.
In the past, the event fund has been used to subsidize professional football’s Super Bowl championship game, college basketball’s Final Four tournament and business meetings such as a Chick-fil-A Inc. convention.
“It’s off-balance-sheet financing for a rich man’s sport,” Viktorin said. Combs is “supposed to be a fiscal officer for the state. She’s not controlling that fund.”
Austin and the state are unlikely to recover their investment directly, Cipolloni said. However, the race will expose the city to a wide audience of tourists and executives that could help recruit companies and create jobs, he said.
“They won’t collect tax money equal to the $25 million” from the state, Cipolloni said. “It’s just a way to get exposure for the city.”
It’s as easy as ABC. It’s as simple as 123.
- Pay Bernie Ecclestone a $250 Million bribe
Texas Billionaires Bet on Austin F1 Track Backed by Taxpayers
David Mildenberg, Bloomberg News
Friday, November 16, 2012
Subsidies for the Austin race, backed by Governor Rick Perry and Comptroller Susan Combs, will depend partly on the effect the first event has on tax receipts. With just days to go before the start, more than 115 hotels in Austin had vacancies, Priceline.com and other travel websites show. That may signal that forecasts of a Super Bowl-caliber boost won’t pan out.
“The economic studies said every hotel would be completely filled all the way down to San Antonio,” a 90-minute drive from Austin, said Danielle Crespo, who runs two websites that link Formula One visitors to lodging. “That isn’t the case.”
Fewer fans are coming to Austin from Europe and Canada than hoteliers expected, and they’re booking three nights instead of the projected five or six, said Randy McCaslin, a vice president of PKF Consulting who tracks the Texas hotel market from Houston. In a normally slow month, the race may boost occupancy rates as much as 2 percent, he said.
Perry, a Republican, called the event “a great opportunity to showcase our state” at a Nov. 8 news briefing in Austin, the capital. Some of the more than 20,000 visitors expected from other countries will include corporate chief executives who may be interested in expanding in Texas, the governor said.
The state’s support has drawn criticism from lawmakers and raised fairness concerns among other motorsports leaders.
“It’s caused a lot of questions and there has not been a reasonable explanation so far,” said Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway, a NASCAR venue in Fort Worth. More than 700,000 fans in the past two years have attended six NASCAR and Indy Racing League events there, yet it has received a far smaller subsidy, $5.7 million, a state report shows.
“You have a fund that is going to pay them much more for not nearly as large of a crowd as we have,” Gossage said of the Austin group, called Circuit of the Americas LLC.
U.S. Goes From F1 Wasteland to Land of Promise
Published: November 16, 2012 at 7:19 PM ET
With the newly constructed $400 million Circuit of the Americas providing the spectacular beach head, a successful race in the Texas capital could pave the way for even more grands prix in the U.S. with possible races in New York and Los Angeles.
F1 teams up and down the Austin paddock could not hide their delight at being back in the U.S. while Ecclestone gushed a new found enthusiasm for a market he had once dismissed.
“The Americas are probably big enough to have five or six grands prix,” Ecclestone told reporters. “We’re trying to get something sorted out in New Jersey/New York, we’ve had a lot of requests.”
Tavo Hellmund’s United States Grand Prix joy will be shrouded in pain
Paul Weaver, The Guardian
Thursday 15 November 2012 17.34 EST
The man who transformed the United States Grand Prix in Austin from personal fantasy into vivid reality will watch Sunday’s race with a mixture of pride and sadness.
(T)he bigger it is the more painful it is for Hellmund, who will have no official role to play this weekend after an unhappy and unsuccessful power struggle. He says: “This is, after all, my baby. And to see Formula One cars tear down the straightway on Sunday will be the fulfilment of a project I worked on for more than a decade.”
Hellmund had announced in July 2010, that he had signed a deal to bring Formula One back to America. But after realising he needed more backing, he fell out with his fellow investors, Bobby Epstein and Red McCombs, with the former having stepped in to rescue the venture with some last-ditch deal making after Ecclestone had cancelled the contract. Hellmund filed a suit against the other investors, ultimately lost control and then was squeezed out.
Formula One Hoping for Happy U.S. Return
Published: November 14, 2012 at 3:06 AM ET
The penultimate race in a title chase that has taken the glamour series to the four corners of the globe could well be decided in the distinctly unglamorous scrublands of south Texas, as Formula One tries again to establish a presence in the U.S. following a five-year absence.
While Sunday’s race could be the pinnacle of the F1 season, Americans motor sports fans do not view the U.S. Grand Prix with as much anticipation.
Formula One Romance Lost on Americans
Published: November 14, 2012 at 7:02 PM ET
In the United States, however, the appeal of motor racing’s glamour circuit has somehow been lost on the country that sells more Ferraris and Porsches than any other and it is likely more eyeballs will be focused on Homestead, Florida on Sunday where NASCAR’s Chase championship will be decided.
“The truth is we find that there is no crossover,” Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway near Dallas, which hosts two of NASCAR’s biggest races, told Reuters.
“NASCAR fans tend to look down their nose at Formula One fans and Formula One fans tend to look down their nose at NASCAR.”
“It’s apples and sausages, it’s not even apples and oranges they are so unlike each other.”
Taking Another Shot at a New Frontier With U.S. Grand Prix
By BRAD SPURGEON, The New York Times
Published: November 16, 2012
To capture the American imagination, however, many ingredients must be present in – or added to – a series that differs greatly from the numerous local motor-sports offerings, such as Nascar, sprint car, drag and IndyCar racing.
A major problem is that most Formula One races in the United States are run either late at night or early in the morning because of the global audience, which means they attract only the most devoted U.S. fans.
Also, there is little done to entertain fans beyond the track action at a Formula One race. Any entertainment is provided by local promoters, such as variety acts performing on stages outside the grandstands and activities for children at the Bahrain race.
In fact, Formula One is not much of a family affair, unlike most American sports, as tickets for the race are usually much more expensive than those for other sporting events. In Austin, the tickets are among the series’ cheapest: Three-day general admission is $159, but a seat in the grandstands costs $269 to $499.
Tires are Hards and Mediums. The track is brand new and slippery.
Any surprises below.