On Nov. 16, Austin, TX, saw its first F1 United States Grand Prix racing event at the newly opened Circuit of the Americas track. Formula 1 racing, otherwise known as F1, is a familiar sport in many regions of Europe, but has been relatively unknown to the U.S. since 2007, the last time an F1 event was held on U.S. soil.
The inaugural event, named Austin Fan Fest, was held from Nov. 16-18 in downtown Austin and included acts from Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Flo Rida, Cobra Starship and international singer Juanes. The festival turned downtown Austin into a hotspot with its music venues, F1 car simulator stations and parties along with other interactive activities. The event was expected to host not only Austin natives, but also visitors from around the world.
The track is located 14 miles southeast of downtown Austin and runs for 3.4 miles with an elevation of 133 feet, making it accessible to 120,000 spectators.
Circuit of the Americas is much more than a track. The multi-purpose facility is expected to host educational and medical programs as well as a driving academy. As stated on its website, the facility will feature a 5,500 square foot medical center that will provide paramedic and EMS services and opportunities for students to receive medical training. A 40,000 square foot conference media center is another feature of the circuit.
The project went into development in May 2010 and construction began in December 2010. The facility encountered many roadblocks along the way, as there were rumors that production had stopped in November 2011 when contract disagreements took place. With Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein on board as the founding partners, the production of the facility took off and now, it humbly rests in the town of Elroy, which is a few miles away from Austin.
Lately, the biggest controversy surrounding the Circuit of the Americas is whether the Texas Comptroller Susan Combs had the right to green-light its production without the public’s approval. According to the Texas Tribune, it is illegal to approve an article without proper consideration by all parties.
According to the Texas Tribute, Combs agreed to pay back a sum of $250 million within the next 10 years. Now, the city of Austin must make arrangements to pay back its first installment of $25 million from the Major Events Trust Fund in the form of a tax subsidy. The percentage of sales tax revenue that was accumulated from tourism will influence the payment amount.
Opponents of the tax subsidy payment include those who are affiliated with the Tea Party. They argue that the attraction is a threat to other programs that are facing the possibility of being cut and suffer from insufficient funding. Supporters of the Circuit of the Americas contend that the facility will increase tourism and boost the economy.
Media and Community Relations Manager Ali Putnam said that the facility has created over 300 full-time jobs in Austin, as well as an additional 3,000 jobs for seasonal and event specific employees. “In total, Circuit of the Americas is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs,” said Putnam.
Opening weekend of the event sold over 110,000 tickets, with 60 percent sold to buyers out of Texas, 40 percent to local buyers and 15 percent to international buyers.
UTSA student Jesse Sanchez said that he wished he could have gone to the event. “It seemed really cool,” said Sanchez. “I’ve been going to the events at the San Antonio Raceway for awhile now, but I’m glad that Austin has something new to bring to the table.”
For those who were unable to grab one of these esteemed seats, there are more projects expected to be held in the spring, including V8 supercar and motorsports series events.