Unlikely though it may have seemed just a couple of years ago, Austin, Texas, has become the site of a battle between Formula One racing and economic development on the one hand, and government spending restrictions and fiscal responsibility on the other.
The showdown is over the United States Grand Prix, set to be held on the new Circuit of the Americas on the outskirts of Austin next year. Holding an F1 race almost invariably involves government support in the form of public funds, and a vocal lobby has vehemently rejected to the notion of government coffers being opened up to support the race. However after weeks of deliberation, the Austin City Council has reportedly voted by a majority of 5-2 to support the event.
The rationale, as is common with other grands prix, is that the public investment – some $25 million per year in this case – will encourage a big boost in tourism. Those coming to Austin for the race – be they spectators or F1 personnel – are expected to spend around $700 per day per person.
Another element offsetting the naysayers revolves around plans to make the track complex currently under construction one of the greenest circuits in the world, with public transportation, bike lanes and some 800 trees planted around the grounds of the circuit.
A potential change of date, however, is being considered for the race. The race is currently scheduled to take place on June 17, one week after the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. But with temperatures in Austin reaching over 100 degree Fahrenheit in June, organizers could lobby to have the race moved later in the year, possibly to be twinned with the Brazilian Grand Prix in November instead.