SBD/July 18, 2013/Events and Attractions

Circuit Of The Americas, Austin Land X Games With Cost Effectiveness Seen As Key Factor

Austin's selection means the X Games will move from July to May
ESPN yesterday tapped Austin to host the next four domestic X Games because its bid met the network’s goals for cutting event costs and creating a festival atmosphere. The event will be held at the city’s new, 1,500-acre Circuit of the Americas (COTA), which has an amphitheater for concerts and road course for F1 races. Austin beat out bids from Charlotte, Chicago and Detroit. A domestic X Games costs an estimated $20M, and ESPN evaluated each bid’s potential cost. As a new facility capable of holding every event on-site, COTA offered a more cost efficient venue than competitors. ESPN Senior VP/Programming & Global X Games Scott Guglielmino said, “It becomes a lighter-weight model when it comes to cost here.” He added the “single footprint” COTA offers is “optimal” because it allows ESPN to create a festival with live concerts at the amphitheater and other events that extend beyond the sports competitions. Guglielmino: “You’ll be able to drive up, come through the gates and enjoy a very, very broad presentation.” ESPN initially planned to award the event to a new city for three years, but COTA execs pushed for a four-year agreement and will host the event from '14-17. Guglielmino: “We’re both incented to grow out the event. Given the footprint of the facility and what (COTA Chair Bobby Epstein) and his team have to offer, growth here in Austin is a reality for us. That’s a big, big part of it.” ESPN’s Longhorn Network will contribute to coverage of X Games Austin. The selection of Austin will see ESPN move the summer X Games event from July to mid May. Guglielmino said that was largely to avoid hosting competitions for athletes during a hot, Texas summer (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).

LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP
: Guglielmino said that there is a "good chance the X Games could have a long-term home at COTA." He said, "The master plan is to not pick this event up every few years and move it to another city." Epstein said that they expect to "draw more than 60,000 fans on the weekday portions of the event and more than 100,000 fans over the weekend portion, with music and other cultural attractions taking place concurrently" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/17). In Austin, John Maher in a front-page piece notes the games will "be staged next year from May 15-18." The competition will "fall at the same time as graduation" at the Univ. of Texas. However, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a UT spokesperson indicated that the "confluence wouldn't create any insurmountable problems." Leffingwell: "We're going to have a lot of folk focused on Austin, even more than they are now." Epstein said of Austin's winning bid, "It was very close. I'm very proud of the thousands of people who showed up when the committee was here. That had a huge impact. ... It impressed me. That told me we were on the right track." ESPN's decision "hit hard in Detroit, where a grass-roots effort to attract the games had been embraced by young people intent on revitalizing that city" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 7/18). COTA President Steve Sexton said that 16-18 X Games athletes "live in Austin, and that a 'couple thousand people' showed up at the State Capitol to watch an exhibition when Austin was announced as one of the four finalists earlier this year" (AP, 7/17).

DETROIT'S DOWNFALL: In Detroit, Tom Walsh in a front-page piece notes the "specter of Detroit teetering on the brink in fiscal collapse did matter in ESPN’s final decision to choose Austin." ESPN’s desire to "award the games for a multiyear period meant it wanted stability, not volatility." Detroit’s bid was "a powerful one, though, aside from the threat of bankruptcy." Losing the X Games is "a reminder that Detroit will look feeble to the outside world until the fiscal cloud is lifted" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/18). Also in Detroit, Josh Katzenstein writes another possible "drawback for Detroit was the need to use multiple venues for the games." Local bid organizer Kevin Krease said that the final proposal "had most events happening at Ford Field, but secondary events -- like music or art festivals -- would've been off-site." All of the activity in Austin "will be on or around" COTA (DETROIT NEWS, 7/18). Guglielmino: "In terms of bankruptcy; the reality is we made our decision based on many factors. I think the revitalization story is a very, very interesting one. But certainly from a volatility standpoint sure, (bankruptcy) is something we got to factor in" (MLIVE.com, 7/17). The Detroit bid group in a statement on their Facebook page said, "We are not walking away, and we don't believe the movement of people who have gotten behind this cause are either. ... Over the last few weeks we've realized that ultimately it's probably more fitting that we just create that medium ourselves. So that's what we're going to do. We're going to create our own 'X Games.' We're not entirely sure what this looks or sounds like yet, but we'll have details made public in the coming weeks" (THE DAILY).

AS THE SEASONS TURN
: In Denver, Jason Blevins notes ESPN is "reviewing potential hosts for the Winter X Games because its deal with the Aspen Skiing Co. ends in 2014." Proposals from potential hosts -- which "initially included Aspen; Park City, Utah; Quebec City; and a collaboration of California resorts around Lake Tahoe -- were due in June." Guglielmino said that his team "would be focusing on Winter X bids now that the Summer X site was decided." A final decision on the Winter X Games site from '15-17 will "be announced by the fall" (DENVER POST, 7/18).
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