SBD/November 15, 2012/Events and Attractions

Is Austin Ready To Host Its First F1 Race With The Inaugural Grand Prix This Weekend?

Workers are putting finishing touches on track ahead of this weekend's F1 race
The Circuit of the Americas in Austin is “a beehive of activity” with the track's first F1 Grand Prix days away, according to Dave Doolittle of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Workers are “putting finishing touches on the 1,100-acre racing complex, teams are moving along with race preparations, and vendors are stocking booths with food, drinks and merchandise.” Track VP/Public & Community Relations Julie Loignon said that F1 Management, which “provides the TV feed for races, has been laying broadcast cable around the 3.4-mile circuit and setting up 20-plus camera positions since last week.” She said that crews are “still installing temporary seating areas and signs around the venue, while other workers landscape, clean and prepare public areas.” Teams continue to “set up garages and hospitality buildings” in the pit and paddock building. To feed the “expected 120,000 people, more than 500 food and beverage facilities have been planned around the site.” Sodexo VP/Sports & Entertainment Martin Thorson said that some are operated “by Sodexo, others by local food trailers and restaurant booths.” Sodexo also is “catering more than 65 luxury suites around the track and large hospitality tents between turns 19 and 20 and near the main grandstand.” Thorson said that about 1,200 people “will work at various sites around the track, from warehouse staff, to wait staff, chefs, cooks, bartenders and booth workers” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/14).

BUCKLE UP: In Austin, Wear & Doolittle noted Austin this week will “find out what it really means to have about 115,000 fans converge from all over the world to watch a grand prix race.” COTA President Steve Sexton said, “It’s like having the Super Bowl here. Like having a Super Bowl here every year for the next 10 years.” Sexton said that up to 70% of those who have “bought the three-day tickets ... are from outside Texas, and only about 10 percent are from Central Texas.” Officials said that about 20,000 “are from other countries.” Sexton: “We’ve sold (race tickets) in over 50 countries, and we’ve sold in every U.S. state” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/11). Also in Austin, John Maher wrote under the header, “Against All Odds, F1 Track Has Been Built, Ready To Host Race.” For almost “two years, the project has bumped and lurched through doubts and delays.” Race workers last week were “still scrambling around the massive site to complete a critical access road and finish fan amenities.” Yet the track “has been built, and both the design and workmanship have been drawing raves” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/11). The AP's Jim Vertuno wrote the event "achieved its mandatory goal of getting the track built, but the challenge will be how to succeed and keep drawing fans beyond the initial excitement of the inaugural race" (AP, 11/14).

ROOM FOR F1 IN THE STATES? REUTERS’ Steve Keating wrote 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.” In Texas, NASCAR is “king and it is likely more eyeballs and television remotes will be focused on Homestead, Florida where the Chase championship will also be decided on Sunday” (REUTERS, 11/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's A.J. Baime wrote "when the checkered flag waves Sunday, the future of F1 in this country should become clearer." Promoters are "expecting between 110,000 and 120,000 spectators Sunday, the climax of three days of racing and events, including a music festival headlined by Aerosmith." Track officials said that tickets for the race are "nearly sold out." The concern is "whether these events will pay for themselves -- whether F1 once again will fail to resonate here despite its wild popularity overseas" (WSJ.com, 11/14).
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