SMI Chair Smith Says Austin F1 Race Will Not Negatively Impact TMS Events
SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith said that he has "no concerns" about the upcoming F1 race in Austin "affecting tickets sales to future events at Texas Motor Speedway," according to Terry Blount of ESPN.com. Smith: "We've checked and about 10 people we know are going to it, so I'm not really concerned. Formula One never had done anything in this country. It never has worked." TMS President Eddie Gossage was "much more complimentary" of the Nov. 18 race at Circuit of the Americas than Smith. Gossage said, "They are going to have a great crowd down there. We know their ticket sales and they've done very well. Personally, I feel the more racing in Texas the better. But we don't have much crossover." Gossage: "It looks like a beautiful circuit. The challenge will be to maintain that in Year 2 and Year 3" (ESPN.com, 11/3). In a special to the N.Y. TIMES, the Texas Tribune's Jay Root wrote under the header, "Bringing An F1 Vibe To A Counterculture City." Root wrote the race will be "an opportunity to prove that screaming-fast race cars and the well-heeled clientele that follows them around the globe will be welcome in a town that made a homeless transvestite a local celebrity and whose most famous bumper sticker is 'Keep Austin Weird.'" City planners and race promoters "have their work cut out for them." They will still have to "work out any last-minute kinks on a project that was beset with construction delays and uncertainty about tax incentives." Fears of a "monster traffic jam and complaints from skeptical neighborhood associations and community activists also have race backers on edge" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/4).
CHECKERED PAST: FORBES' Christopher Helman wrote under the header, "Wild Ride: The Sordid Saga Of How Formula One Racing Came To Texas." F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "agreed to issue the Circuit of the Americas its own ten-year contract -- at a price." Ecclestone "upped the annual sanction fee" to $25M instead of the previous $23M. Former COTA Managing Partner Tavo Hellmund "is out," and track investor and former Vikings Owner Red McCombs has "dialed back his involvement and capped his equity contributions but is believed to be a guarantor behind much of the track’s debts." TMS Chair Bobby Epstein, meanwhile, has "attracted more than a dozen new equity investors," including John Paul Mitchell Systems co-Founder John Paul DeJoria. Former IndyCar driver Mario Andretti was "hired as the public face of the track." Epstein said that he has "finalized a deal by which Texas will reimburse the track for the F1 sanctioning fee after each year’s race, once the receipts from the horde of F1 fans have been tallied up." Epstein also "hopes to build a hotel and research center on-site" (FORBES, 11/5 issue).