Formula One weekend begins today. To commemorate the event, I’m rerunning a post that first appeared at the first Formula One event, in November 2012. It received oodles of hits as well as some comments that suggested I am not a nice person and that I should get a life. I suspect commenters did not read the post carefully, or maybe at all.
So I’m giving y’all a second shot at it. I’ve added links to some websites not in the original post. Before you comment, please read to the end. It helps to know what a post says before you comment. If possible, enjoy. If impossible, complain away. Just remember this is a family friendly blog.
Hint: Parts are written with tongue-in-cheek. Which parts I’ll let the reader decide.
Fans from all over the world gathered in Central Texas for the grand opening of The Circuit of the Americas near Austin this weekend.
I wasn’t one of the gathered, but after reading and listening to friends, and complaining about the Circuit of the Americas for the past couple of years, I’ve put together enough information to comment in a semi-reliable fashion.
According to its website, CoTA is a “world-class motorsports and entertainment venue,” “designed to be the only purpose-built facility in the U.S. to host the FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ through 2021 and V8 SUPERCARS from 2013-2018.” It covers 375 acres and lies fifteen miles from downtown Austin.
Politicians have been just tickled pink–or maybe green–because the track will bring money into the city and the state and will create jobs. Can’t complain about that. Money and jobs are good.
And such a Big Deal, covering months of negotiations and construction, helps drive away
- the water shortage,
- underfunded schools,
- rising property taxes,
- feral hogs, and
- how much will remain of San Antonio after Texas secedes from the Union and all those military installations have packed up their guns and airplanes and headed for Iowa,
from the headlines to page 3 of the classifieds, right below Doonsbury.
I haven’t shared the politicians’ or anyone else’s enthusiasm. I’ve railed against CoTA ever since it hit the six o’clock news:
- paving pasture- and farmland,
- wasting fossil fuel,
- spending state tax money to fund what should be a private venture,
- plopping the facility down in an area with inadequate infrastructure and expecting taxpayers to fund repair and upkeep,
- causing land values and property taxes to skyrocket, and
- other objections too numerous to mention.
However, on Saturday, while the elite, who the night before drunk gold-infused champagne at Austin’s finest hotels (I didn’t make that up) were descending from helicopters onto a former pasture near Elroy, our friend Millie shared with the Fifteen Minutes of Fame writing practice group some facts that tempered my pessimism. She said the CoTA will eventually
- be open 365 days a year,
- host concerts, charity runs, sports events, and the like,
- create hundreds of both full-time and part-time jobs,
- attract a million people a year,
- pour oodles into the economy, and
- promote research that will influence medicine, transportation, and other areas we can’t yet predict.
After listening to her reassurances, FMoF members gave Millie a round of applause and left in better spirits.
But even before Millie’s talk, my objections had become moot. Because the day before, I learned that the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has invested $200 million in Formula One, for “about a 3% stake in the global racing series.”
Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein said, “Now the teachers win when F1 makes money and when new dollars come into our state as a result of the Grand Prix.”
Consequently, I have become Formula 1’s biggest fan. I will say kind words about it, I will look for it in the sports pages, I may even subscribe to Sports Illustrated. Whatever I can do to promote Formula One racing, I will do.
I’ve already X-ed out the piece I wrote last week about a dystopian future when we run out of fossil fuel and CoTA descends to hosting chariot races.
But there’s another however: TRS stated, “To be clear, F1 is a completely separate company that is unrelated to Circuit of the Americas, which will host an F1 Grand Prix race near Austin in November 2012. None of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, CVC Capital Partners, or Formula One Group has any ownership interest or business relationship with the Circuit of the Americas.”
So while I cheer for Formula One, I’ll continue to wail about the paved-over paradise on which my pocketbook depends.
And I’ll be watching to see how much of the money Texas rakes in goes toward shoring up TRS and the public schools of Texas.
P. S. One of my objections was that state and city tax money had funded CoTA. The CoTA website (not found 10.20.2017, but quoted here in 2012) and the Heritage Office Suites (January 27, no year found) include this note:*
“NOTE: To date, State money has not been paid to the developers of Circuit of The Americas and no local community, including the City of Austin, is providing incentive funding to the developers. As is the case with the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and other large-scale events in Texas, the Formula 1 event is eligible for expense reimbursements from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund. This reimbursement is performance-based and may be applied for after the first event in November 2012. Any state reimbursement is based on the amount of incremental tax revenue generated, Friday, January 31, 2014
If organizations that bring major events to town are reimbursed, I hope the Texas Library Association is reimbursed for its annual conference. That’s major.
Other sources provide information, most gathered after 2012. In (approximately) reverse order:
My Statesman / Austin American-Statesman, Comptroller candidate takes aim at Circuit of the Americas subsidy, October 2, 2014
From My Statesman / Austin American Statesman, Circuit of the Americas receives $29 million in state funds for Formula One, January 31, 2014
“Major Events Trust Fund money paid to Circuit of the Americas
“Event; requested; amount paid
“Formula One 2013; $32,357,824; $29,028,664
“Formula One 2012; $30,597,061; $29,329,984
“The state comptroller’s office this week paid Circuit of the Americas about $29 million from the Major Events Trust Fund for November’s Formula One race.
“That’s down slightly from what Susan Combs’ office paid out for the 2012 inaugural race and slightly less than what organizers had requested.
“The payment, made on Monday, is based in large part on an estimate of the expected tax revenue brought in by out-of-state fans for the race.
From Autoweek, Suspends Track Construction; Race Under Threat, November 14, 2011
“The planned 2012 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas, on Tuesday afternoon suffered another potentially catastrophic blow when organizers announced that they have stopped construction on the new racetrack.
“The announcement came just hours after the revelation by Texas state comptroller Susan Combs that no money from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund will be paid before the race takes place, apparently meaning that there is no state money available to pay Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone’s $25 million sanctioning fee, at least not prior to the race as planned originally. And, if history is any sort of measuring stick, anyone who follows F1 knows Ecclestone and his traveling circus do not show up until he has been paid in full.”
Briefing on Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, June 7, 2011
COTA, Circuit of the Americas Fact Sheet, undated