The Austin City Council voted today to officially endorse the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix event for the Texas city in 2012. Council members deliberated on the issue for more than three weeks leading up to the vote and worked closely with representatives of Circuit of The Americas to answer concerns that city taxpayers would be put at risk by their endorsement of the F1 race, and to ensure that the facility would not have a negative environmental impact.
The vote, which was passed 5-2, comes despite high-profile criticism of the cost of the event during the lengthy deliberation period. The Council's official endorsement of the race clears the way for the new circuit to utilize a state fund established by the Texas Legislature for the purpose of attracting and producing major sports events – which had also attracted some complaints from some about excessive public spending in the current economic climate.
"We appreciate the Council's approval of the endorsement," said Steve Sexton, president of Circuit of The Americas. "Austin is a unique community and the environmental provisions we worked together to craft with Council demonstrate our commitment to produce an event aligned with the values and vision of the city. This is a major step toward our vision of bringing the world to Austin to enjoy one of the most spectacular international events in sports. This partnership sets a new standard that every new sports or entertainment venue around the world can emulate."
"This project shouldn't just be about fast cars," Councilman Chris Riley said. "Austin's version of the event should convey our commitment to clean technology research and development, and should inspire people across the planet to think green."
"I know why so many people have a hard time with an auto race," Riley added. "But when thousands of people from around the world say they want to spend money in your community, you listen."
Kathie Tovo was one of the two council members to vote against the plans, saying that "I cannot support something that would [put] more than $400 million in state funding to fund a recreational activity."
Yet despite the vocal anti-race lobby, the majority felt that the financial benefit to the area outweighed any such expenditure, with promoters claiming that fans and F1 workers will spend more than $700 per day while in Austin.
Now undergoing the final stages of groundwork excavation in southeast Travis County, the Circuit of The Americas "will be among the most technologically and environmentally advanced venues in the world," race organizers have promised. Working with community environmental groups, they have devised a 54-point plan to position the racetrack as "the greenest sporting facility in the Americas." The plan includes elements ranging from off-site transportation options and dedicated bicycle lane access to incorporation of a community garden area, water-conservation measures, and the planting of more than 800 trees. In addition, the venue will promote and host alternative vehicle races.
In addition to the lingering financial concerns, worries have also been expressed about the announced date for the race of June 17 – when temperatures in the Austin area are regularly over 100 degrees. Consideration is reportedly being given to switching the date to later in the year, possibly running back to back with the Brazilian GP in November.