SBD/October 20, 2017/People and Pop Culture

Weekend Plans With Circuit Of The Americas COO Katja Heim: Attracting U.S. Fans To F1

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Heim has helped turn COTA into a vital part of Austin's thriving live music scene
When F1 heads to Austin this weekend for the annual U.S. Grand Prix, Circuit Of The Americas COO KATJA HEIM will be ready, to the extent that is possible for an event of this size. “The last couple of days before, all the unexpected things come. It’s like when you throw a party and all of the sudden realize a lot of little things are outstanding.” Heim came to COTA in spring '16 after having done consulting for the track -- through KHP, the London-based firm she founded -- since the venue was still being built '11. Bringing a wealth of experience in F1 to her role, she has helped make the venue a staple on the F1 calendar and a year-round venue for motorsports and entertainment.

RACE TO THE FINISH: The F1 weekend is the biggest weekend we have at COTA, and we have quite a lot of racing. F1 takes the most preparation time, because we have many more fans here. And we set the weekend up with the STEVIE WONDER and JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE concerts, so it’s a really big weekend of entertainment, on the track and off. If everything goes well, we think this will be the best event yet at COTA, because we’ve added so much for the patrons. And it’s a unique circuit. The architects have taken the best things from the older European tracks, so the drivers really love it.

READY, STEADY, GO: Once the race weekend comes, I jump from trying to set everything up to a little bit more schmoozing and making sure everything is done. You get to catch up with people in F1, because they are far away most of the year. There is sometimes the odd thing that has to be changed at the last minute. But by Sunday, you can’t do a lot, unless you have thunderstorms or something, like COTA had in '15. Then, you go into crisis management.

PACKED CALENDAR: COTA has really developed into a multi-purpose entertainment venue. We have a lot of concerts, with the amphitheater here. We have more track days, events over 320 days a year. Depending on how important the weekend is, sometimes we can just drop in. Then at times we are not there at all, so I’ll have a really nice Austin weekend. 

AUSTIN, TO THE LIMIT
: When I came here initially in ’11, the first thing you notice is you go to a restaurant, there is great live music. There’s all these fantastic clubs, like the Continental Club. And just last weekend, there was Austin City Limits, with over 75,000 people in town. I’m originally from Germany, so I lived in Munich a long time, and then London. A couple of weeks ago, I was in London, where I still have a house, and I did miss it. But it’s so big. Initially, when I came to Austin, it was too small for me, but now I just love the size. People are terribly nice here, and there’s this weirdness mixed with professionalism. It’s just fantastic. But sometimes, I miss German bread and German sausages.

THE RIGHT FORMULA: I’ve worked with F1 more than 30 years, and over time, I’ve been able to specialize more and more on supporting countries and promoters who build a circuit and sign F1: how to set it up, how to promote it, how to make it successful, and how to make it commercially viable the 360 days of the year it doesn’t have F1. That’s a challenge globally for all the promoters.
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