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Volume 24 No. 157


The F1 track in Austin "will be the host of not one, but two huge international motor races, and the project, now pegged with a $400 million price tag, will include a conference center, a 22-story signature tower and possibly a hotel," according to Maher & Novak of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The track, "newly christened the Circuit of the Americas, Tuesday added a premier" MotoGP event that "will begin a 10-year run" in '13. The new race is "just one of the plans for the growing development." Investor Bobby Epstein said that the site has "swelled from the original 970 acres to 1,100." A 40,000-square-foot conference center is "on the drawing board as well as 14 executive meeting suites," and Epstein said that talks "are at a 'good stage' with a major hotel developer to build a hotel at the venue." The track also "will have a 5,500-square-foot medical facility," and it will be "able to handle outdoor concerts drawing up to 35,000 fans." Full Throttle Productions Managing Partner Tavo Hellmund said that "one or two more large motor races might be added and that running and bicycling events could be held there as well." He added that there are "ongoing talks with two auto manufacturers about building a research and development facility at the site." The initial estimates to build the track alone were around $200M, and organizers "did not say where the money would come from to build the growing complex." Maher & Novak note the track was designed by "racing-savvy German engineering firm" Tilke GmbH. But while that company is "in charge of the track, Dallas-based HKS Inc. is responsible for the fan experience and amenities." It  appears that "local architects will design the signature structure, a 22-story tower with a museum at the base that will overlook the 3.4-mile circuit and offer a view of the Austin skyline" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 4/13). Former Vikings Owner Red McCombs, an investor in the Austin track, said that the project "has broken ground and 'we're meeting the construction milestones.'" McCombs: "It is a big deal and we're all so excited about it" (L.A. TIMES, 4/13).

Attendance for the first year of the NASCAR HOF is "expected to be 250,000 to 300,000, far short of the projected 800,000 visitors," and all told the HOF is "expected to lose more than $1.3 million in its first year," according to a front-page piece by David Perlmutt of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority has said that it "will use its reserves to cover" this year's losses, but if the HOF "loses money in future years, the authority could ask the City Council for money from the hospitality taxes on motel and hotel rooms, as well as on prepared food and beverages." CRVA CEO Tim Newman said that "beyond disappointing attendance numbers," the HOF "has been a success, helping shine a national spotlight on Charlotte." City officials have said that the HOF "helped win the Democratic National Convention for Charlotte in 2012." But Atlanta city officials, who unsuccessfully bid to host the facility, believe the HOF "should have gone to Georgia." Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson said, "My guess is that the number of visitors would've been higher in Atlanta than in Charlotte." However, Newman added that Charlotte was the "appropriate place to build the hall" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/13). Robinson: "In Atlanta they would've been exposing their brand to a wider, more diverse audience." NASCAR HOF Exec Dir Winston Kelley said, "I don't want to get into a he said, she said, but Charlotte can support three NASCAR races a year and Atlanta can't support two; Charlotte is a more NASCAR-friendly town. I would be worried if we had a bad product. But the fact is we have an exceptional product." In Atlanta, Dan Chapman noted the "recession bears part of the blame for the hall's troubles." Newman: "We would have loved to have opened in 2007 rather than 2010 and probably had a much greater financial cushion to be able to weather the storm." Newman also "laments the overly rosy attendance projections" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/10).

In Louisville, Marcus Green reports the Louisville Arena Authority will “increase its rebate to the city because revenues from the KFC Yum! Center were better than expected during the building’s first three months.” LAA officials yesterday said that the local government “had been expecting about $1.8 million during 2011 but will instead get $3.2 million back.” Arena officials also announced “an additional $250,000 in new sponsorship agreements for signs and other exposure, bringing the total amount to more” than $50M (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 4/13).

IS THE GRASS GREENER? In Seattle, Joshua Mayers notes the MLS Sounders, Seahawks and First & Goal last week “commissioned a study to see if grass could be a viable playing surface in the future” for Qwest Field. Either way, the stadium's “days on the current surface are numbered.” Qwest Field in January “failed to achieve FIFA two-star certification” on the three-year-old FieldTurf. MLS Dir of Communications Will Kuhns said that there is not a “hard rule that states the field must be two-star quality,” but the league “wants teams playing on the best surface possible.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber “has long indicated his preference for grass” (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/13).

FLORIDA VACATION: Univ. of Michigan AD Dave Brandon Monday said that he and the school are "working hard to schedule more athletic events" in South Florida. Brandon added that the school has "had initial talks with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, a Michigan alum, about playing" a neutral-site football game at Sun Life Stadium in the future. Brandon: "We don't have anything scheduled, but that's something we'd consider because this is an important recruiting area for us as well" (NAPLES NEWS, 4/12). 

ASSEMBLEY REQUIRED: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes the "life-size Hot Wheels track" being constructed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of the Indianapolis 500 will feature a "100-foot-high structure erected in the infield area of the Speedway's fourth turn." The Hot Wheels track, which "will be 16 feet wide," arrived yesterday "in 26 truckloads and will take three weeks to construct, beginning May 8." It "will not be taken down until after the May 29 race" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/13).