Austin F1 Track Has A Name And A New Tenant
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Austin, Texas – Formula One’s new home in the United States now officially has a name _ Circuit of the Americas. In addition to staging the Formula One United States Grand Prix beginning in 2012, the facility will play host to the MotoGP World Championship starting in 2013.
Those were the key items announced during a news conference at the Palmer Events Center downtown on Tuesday afternoon, capping nearly a year-long series of business and political negotiations for the $250-million project.
“It’s been super-busy,” said Tavo Hellmund, chairman of Formula 1 United States and managing partner of Full Throttle Productions LP. “We’ve got a short runway. We sat up on stage almost a year ago and basically said that we were building a lot more than just a racetrack, that we were building a destination.“
Hellmund was joined on stage by partners Red McCombs – founder of the Red McCombs Automotive Group, co-founder of Clear Channel Communications and a former owner of several pro sports teams – and Robert A. Epstein. “Bobby” Epstein is the founder and managing general partner of Prophet Management, a hedge fund and private investment company.
“When we were introduced to you guys about 10 or 11 months ago, we told you at the time we were going to do some really big things,” said McCombs, a long-standing member of “Forbes” magazine’s 400 richest Americans. “Things we’re talking about, to put it into scope, would be like a Super Bowl every year for 10 years…a total new venture to Austin and Texas.”
Circuit of the Americas will be located 20 miles southeast of downtown in Travis County on a 970-acre site along the SH 130 corridor near FM 812, two miles from Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Its signature element will be a 3.4-mile, 20-turn road circuit with capacity for 120,000 fans. The track will feature elevation changes of up to 133 feet.
“There’s a lot of work going on out there right now,” said Steve Sexton, president of COTA and former
president of Churchill Downs Entertainment. “For the $250-million project that we have (launched), we have 1,300 employees…a lot of Texans. Right now we have between200 and 300 people physically working on the project and we’ve got a staff of 10-12 in the COTA offices.”
Tellmund and Bernie Ecclestone, president/CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, have signed a 10-year agreement to host the United States Grand Prix beginning next year. Asked about a likely inaugural F1 race date, Hellmund said, “We’ve been told to be ready to go the middle of next year. That’s a Bernie and an FIA question.”
The newest tenant, the FIM’s MotoGP World Championship, has signed a 10-year contract to bring its motorcycle series to the track beginning in 2013. Texan Kevin Schwantz, manager of 3FourTexas MGP, L.L.C., and the 1993 FIM MotoGP World Champion, made that announcement. Schwantz was joined by Longview’s Ben Spies, the 2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year and current Yamaha rider.
“This is the first time that the two-wheel and four-wheel world championships will be held at the same American facility on an annual basis,” Hellmund said.
The Circuit of the Americas master plan features a variety of permanent structures designed for business, education, entertainment and race use. The paddock building on race weekends, for example, also will serve as a 500-person banquet hall for events such as private or corporate dinners and non-profit fund-raising galas.
The main grandstand plan includes luxury suites that can be used for business entertaining. With a
capacity of nearly 750 people and a commercial kitchen and cafe, the media and conference center will host business conferences, seminars and receptions. During race weekends, it will convert into an international media center, accommodating the world’s traveling press.
The 5,400-square-foot Medical Building is being built for year-round use as a training facility for area emergency care professionals and medical school students. During races, it will serve as a trauma care location for drivers who may be injured during competition.
Live music entertainment also will become a staple at Circuit of the Americas during race and non-race weekends. The Grand Plaza is designed as an open stage area where performers can entertain thousands. Permanent concessions and restrooms are included in the plan.
Fourteen suites, each 3,600 square-feet with elevators and kitchens, will be outfitted with the audio/visual gear and high-speed web connections to serve as business meeting suites for up to 75 people each. During race weekends, teams and sponsors will use the suites for meetings and hospitality.
“Today’s about more than just a Formula One race,” Epstein said. ”We’re lucky to bring that race to Austin and host the United States Grand Prix, but today’s about more than that. The facility and what it holds is already going well beyond what we originally started with and inspiring a lot of great things.
“The challenges of that track design, I think we’re going to excite drivers and wow the spectators as well. That’s what’s going to make it a great racing facility. But this facility’s becoming an engine of its own. The impact on the economy is just beginning to get clarity. From an immediate construction impact to the ongoing annuity to the people of Texas, the numbers are massive. For example, the total that is staying local. It’s important to note that already 16 different Texas companies have been involved in construction.
“Our goal is to present events that draw people to Texas, and very significantly, to the Austin/San Antonio corridor. You’re going to hear about events that will attract hundreds of thousands of people. A large portion of those people will come from out of state, and more people will come from out of the country than for any other sporting event held in the United States.
“Those numbers translate into dollars for our local merchants. These grand prix and championship races, which are essential to the success of Circuit of the Americas, are week-long festivals and typically see hotel (stays) of three-to-five nights.”
Epstein estimated COTA will generate between $3 billion to $6 billion over the duration of the 10-year contract with Formula One. “It’s our goal that these grand prix events will constitute the largest single-gathering of global corporate leaders held in the United States each year, Epstein said.
Hellmund said that corporate event naming rights are being discussed with multinational companies, including several from Texas. In addition, Hellmund said he is in negotiations with one, and possibly two, auto manufacturers interested in building permanent research and development facilities at COTA. An announcement on that is likely to come this summer.
“COTA will be blessed to have three or four motorsports events a year,” Hellmund said, “but we want to be operating 365 days a year.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment