Austin's Circuit of the Americas - Image courtesy of McLarenEnlarge Photo
With a population of 820,611 residents, Austin is the fourth-largest city in Texas. It’s also home to the University of Texas, where college football is arguably more important that politics, religion, or F1 racing.
In 2013, the Big 12 football showdown between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma State Cowboys is scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 16. As the Austin Statesman points out, that’s the same weekend on the calendar for the 2013 United States Grand Prix.
In terms of numbers, this year’s race was a success, drawing an estimated 265,000 fans to Austin for the Formula One weekend. Attendance at Sunday’s F1 race was said to be in the range of 117,000, which makes the United States Grand Prix the largest sporting event in the city’s history.
By comparison, the Texas-Oklahoma State game is expected to draw some 100,000 fans, meaning that Austin and the surrounding towns won’t have nearly enough hotel, restaurant or transportation capacity to support both events in a single weekend.
Since Formula One is an international sport, with venues planned far in advance, it seems logical that the Big 12 conference would be the one to concede, rescheduling the game for another weekend. Not so, since the teams have no other common dates available in their schedules; in other words, the game will be played on November 16.
As a concession to fans, the University of Texas will schedule the game for 2:30 in the afternoon, meaning that local fans won’t require a hotel room. As for out of state fans, they can expect to pay the going rate for rooms during the Formula On weekend.
In 2012, that worked out to be anywhere from double to seven times the normal room rate, with some hotels requiring a four-night stay. Don’t expect those rooms to get cheaper in 2013, since the hotels are now fully aware of the rates and conditions they can get away with.
As for rescheduling the race, that seems to be up in the air, too. Nick Craw, the senior FIA representative in the U.S., says moving the race is up to the Circuit of the Americas. The track sees it differently, noting, “We do not control the calendar for Formula One, and one of their main challenges is the logistics of their world schedule.”
It remains to be seen if the date of either event can be changed, but this much is clear: if the Texas game and the U.S. Grand Prix remain in Austin on the same weekend, the fans of both sports will be the big losers.