SBD/October 26, 2011/Events and Attractions

Shifting Into Gear: Officials Discuss Plans For Inaugural F1 Race In New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday officially announced the signing of an agreement “to host the annual Formula One Grand Prix of America in Weehawken and West New York in June 2013,” according to John Heinis of THE JERSEY JOURNAL. Christie said, “These races will showcase Weehawken and West New York, as well as our state and region to an international audience, while strengthening both the local and regional economies.” Christie was joined by Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, West New York Mayor Felix Roque, former YES Network Chair & CEO Leo Hindery, County Exec Thomas DeGise and former SMI President & CEO Humpy Wheeler. The Hudson County mayors said that the three-day event on the 3.2 mile track “would rev the engines” of the local economy with “upwards of 100,000 people expected to attend each of the races.” Christie said that ticket prices for the three-day event are “tentatively set at roughly $360.” Christie added that he “would be in attendance each day.” Hindery said that N.Y. was “never in serious consideration for a Formula One event since ‘we could not ensure the safety of the neighborhoods and their citizens, as well as the quality of the driving’” (THE JERSEY JOURNAL, 10/26). Christie yesterday “announced a ten-year agreement to hold the race at a news conference in front of the Port Imperial ferry terminal, which will serve both as entry point for race-goers coming from New York and as the start-finish line for competitors.” Speed’s Steve Matchett “called the course layout and views ‘absolutely staggering’ and compared it to the famed Monte Carlo course for its proximity to water and its steep climb” (AP, 10/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s A.J. Baime notes although Christie expects "over 100,000 people" to attend, there "will be no parking lot on site.” Port Imperial “can be accessed by ferry, Path trains or light rail” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/26).

PAYMENT PLAN: In Austin, John Maher writes F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone has “coveted a race in the New York area for three decades, but until now has not been able to find anything suitable.” Hindery, the “driving force behind the New Jersey project,” said that the “existing plot of land was critical to the event.” Hindery: "It won't work anywhere else in the area." He added that the New Jersey cities of Weehawken and West New York “would be compensated by the promoters for expenses incurred in hosting the race.” In contrast, Austin's U.S. Grand Prix “is scheduled to receive $25 million a year for 10 years from the state's Major Events Trust Fund.” Those payments are “expected to cover the sanctioning fee for the race.” Hindery said that sanctioning fees for the New Jersey race “would be paid by promoters, although he did not indicate how much those fees might be” (AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN, 10/26).

AMERICAN DREAM: The GUARDIAN’s Paul Weaver writes the U.S. market “still carries the most allure and the sport's stakeholders, the FIA, the teams and their sponsors, have been putting pressure on Ecclestone.” When Austin was “still in the planning stage, Ecclestone showed interest in bringing a grand prix to New Jersey should the Texas race fall through.” There are “already 20 grands prix on the calendar for next year, and there will be resistance to racing any more than that the following season, with 20 the unofficial maximum.” The addition of New Jersey would take that to 21, which “could have implications for other grands prix if the teams do not agree to an increase to the calendar.” The future of some races “is already in doubt.” Weaver writes the “trouble with Formula One is that it too often squeezes every last penny from ‘clients,’ before asking for a little bit more each time they go back.” If F1 and Ecclestone “can curb that propensity then the move to the US -- both in Austin and New York -- should be a spectacular triumph” (GUARDIAN, 10/26).
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