Circuit of the Americas first lap ceremony. Photo via COTA.Enlarge Photo
By almost all accounts, the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Austin, Texas’ Circuit of the Americas was a success. Those in attendance, from Formula One drivers through F1 fans, praised the track, the venue and the parties involved in making the race a success.
Only Jackie Stewart seemed displeased with the access to the circuit, telling Autoweek that “It’s not finished, you see, so they haven’t got their access roads. In fact, I am going to write to them about that because I don’t want them running away thinking they got away with it. They didn’t.”
Stewart’s opinion differs from that of Circuit of the America’s boss Bobby Epstein, who pointed out that “normal traffic in Austin is worse than what there was on race day.” In fact, traffic was so trouble-free that Travis County has scrapped plans to proceed with a road-widening project meant to improve access to the circuit.
The big problem may come from overly-ambitious projections made by economist Don Hoyt of TexasEconomicImpact.com. As KXAN reports, Hoyt predicted hotel revenues of $49.8 million, more than four times that seen over the same period of time in 2011 (pre-Circuit of the Americas).
Instead, local hotels reported $32.7 million worth of business, a deficit of $17.1 million over the projected numbers. That has us scratching our heads, since reports were that every available room was filled and that even discount hotels were charging luxury rates and often requiring a four-night stay. How you’d possible add another $17 million to that is beyond us.
As for attendance, the U.S. Grand Prix drew some 117,000 race fans, 60 percent of whom came from out of state (or out of the country). That also falls short of the 74 percent out-of-state visitors projected in planning for the event, which means that there’s still work to be done in attracting non-native race fans.
Based on the projections submitted, Texas comptroller Susan Combs has issues $29.3 million in payments from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund, and here’s where the potential problem lies. Since the numbers will be audited based on actuals for future events, there will be far less state funding issued for next year's United States Grand Prix.
Whether or not that poses a problem, we suppose, depends upon the services that will be impacted and the expectations of those heading to Austin for the race.