The U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas on Sunday is hoping to avoid "the sophomore slump," according to John Maher of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The sophomore slump occurs in baseball, football "and, yes, motorsports." Oftentimes the first time a race is held at a track, it "draws a crowd that turns out to be very hard to equal, let alone top." Grand Prix Tours CEO Barry Simpson said, "Everyone wants to see the first race." The second-year downturn hit Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the previous site of the U.S. Grand Prix. The first race day in '00 attracted an estimated 225,000 fans. The next year, that number dropped by about 50,000. Could "the same thing happen at Circuit of the Americas?" Last year's race "attracted a Sunday crowd of 117,479." The three-day attendance at Circuit of the Americas "totaled more than 265,000 fans," and in May the race was named sports event of the year by SportsBusiness Journal at a gala in Manhattan. Yet after Austin’s "much-celebrated" first F1 race, Mercedes Dir Ross Brawn warned in a N.Y. Times article, “The first year you come to a race at a facility like this, it’s great to see what fantastic support it’s had -- but it’s about maintaining that support.” Circuit of the Americas "hasn’t been in the headlines so often this year, and Simpson said his business will bring about half as many fans to Austin." That is "about what he expected." One tour operator "bucking that trend is Glass Entertainment Management in Tennessee." Glass Entertainment President Patrick Glass said, "We’re double what we were last year, and we probably could have doubled that. We have one (hotel) room left. We’re at 99 percent." Meanwhile, just days before the race, "hotels rooms are still available in Austin, although most hotels continue to ask for a premium price." Single-day tickets for the race "are available this year, as opposed to last year’s three-day block, so race attendance could be influenced by something as simple as the weather on Sunday, when the U.S. Grand Prix will be run." Circuit of the Americas Chair Bobby Epstein said, “We were cautioned to expect the ‘sophomore slump’ that is commonly experienced, but it seems we have an above average (number of) ‘first-time’ buyers and won’t see much of a dip" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/12).
Events and Attractions
Canberra Racing CEO Peter Stubbs said that the revamped A$18M ($16.7M) Sydney autumn carnival "can be the catalyst to strengthen the capital's premier race day and attract Australia's best runners to Thoroughbred Park," according to Chris Dutton of the CANBERRA TIMES. Racing New South Wales "has overhauled its autumn program" and increased prize money to A$18M. Canberra's top two races -- the Black Opal Stakes and the Canberra Cup -- "are set to benefit as trainers search for quality races for their preparation." Stubbs said Canberra Racing "will keep the Black Opal and Canberra Cup in March unless the Sydney calendar changes in the coming years" (CANBERRA TIMES, 11/13). In Melbourne, Michael Lynch reported Racing Victoria chiefs "will unveil a strategic plan for the short-term future of the industry with a stark warning -- unless the sport embraces major change it could fade to irrelevance." Racing officials "are urging the industry to shrug off any inertia or complacency it might have and be prepared to consider major changes" for the '14-15 season and beyond. These "could include days when there is no racing at all -- with Victoria allowing other states to corner the gambling market during the noon to 5pm period." Victoria "may then program major meetings at night, so it can try to build on track attendances at a time when people are free to go out, and also boost gambling revenues when there is no other racing competition." Night racing "would also offer the opportunity to plug more easily into Asian and European wagering markets, delivering a dividend to the local sector" (THE AGE, 11/14). In Sydney, Chris Roots reported Racing NSW and Equine Veterinarians Australia "met on Wednesday to try to resolve the integrity impasse as the state governing body pushes to license vets." Veterinarians have "unanimously rejected being licensed by Racing NSW," which was due to be introduced on Dec. 1. They believe that "it is not necessary as they are already licensed under the NSW Veterinary Practitioners Act." Vets "are concerned about the conditions of the licence, which could leave them open to a denial of natural justice, compromise their professional obligations and bring a rise in public liability insurance" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 11/13).
Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty said that "European rugby's new club competition is a 'train that has left the station' but there is still just time to pick up the Heineken Cup refuseniks," according to Mitch Phillips of REUTERS. Although "there are still a number of issues to be finalised, notably about the governance, the English and French leagues and the Welsh regions are all committed to the new two-tier 'Rugby Champions Cup' which will swing into action next season." Ireland, whose clubs "have excelled in the Heineken Cup in recent years, Scotland and Italy are still holding out in the hope that negotiations can save the existing competition, currently in its 19th season." But McCafferty said that "there was no going back." He said, "It's sorted. It's just a question of which teams want to join. Everyone has to make their own decision." Of the 38 clubs that "would effectively qualify for the Heineken and its secondary competition, the Amlin Challenge Cup, 30 are ready to proceed with the breakaway, along with another two proposed from Europe's 'emerging' rugby nations." McCafferty: "The clubs are telling us they want things in place quickly. They need to organize season tickets, fixtures, broadcast arrangements etc and those things need to start happening soon. At the end of May there will be a playoff for the final qualifying place so we really are just about at the end of the road" (REUTERS, 11/13).
Adelaide's Clipsal 500 "will be the first of five V8 Supercars events that will shift to a twilight format in 2014." The move "comes as part of a push by the category to get its races in front of a prime-time television audience" (AAP, 11/13). ... Switzerland "will once again host a professional women's golf tournament" in '14. Two years "after the country hosted its women's event, a new second tier Ladies European Tour Access Series tournament will be played in Gams-Werdenberg" from May 2-4. The event will have a prize purse of €30,000 ($40,200) (NEUE ZÜRCHER ZEITUNG, 11/13). ... Organizers of the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand announced ticket prices, saying that "they expect more than a million people to attend the tournament's 49 matches." Children's tickets "will be available to all matches including the final," and would start at A$5 ($4.70), while adult tickets begin at A$20 for pool games. Int'l Cricket Council Cricket World Cup 2015 CEO John Harnden said, "We've made sure the event is affordable with more than two third of all tickets A$50 ($47) or under" (AP, 11/13).