JUNE 30, 2011
Austin city council endorses US Grand Prix
After lengthy deliberations, the Austin Texas City Council has approved plans to address the environmental impact of the race.
The organisers of the race have overcome a major hurdle, with the council voting 5-2 in favor of the race, they can now access $25 million in funding per year from the state of Texas's Major Event Trust Fund (METF).
The METF is run by the Texas state comptroller, and pools taxes generated by large events held in the state. The METF has agreed to provide the track $250m over ten years. This money is expected to be used to pay Formula One Management's annual race fees.
In a contentious public meeting, there were arguments against the race with opposition to public funding of a privately run event, especially in a time when the state faces economic cutbacks.
Council Member Laura Morrison said, "A vote for this motion would effectively be an endorsement of the state's use of $25 million and eventually a quarter of a billion dollars for a private, for profit, enterprise. I really can't ask the state to spend this money on a sporting event when we're slashing social-service spending."
Council Member Kathie Tovo said, "After much soul searching I cannot support something that would unlock more than $250 million in state funding to fund a recreational activity."
Some critics of the event fear that based on the contracts in place that Austin will be on-the-hook to pay FOM's fees for ten years - even if the race fails.
Council Member Chris Riley, who voted in favor of the event, said, "I know why so many people have a hard time with an auto race. But when thousands of people from around the world say they want to spend money in your community, you listen."
Circuit of The Americas's president Steve Sexton said, "We appreciate the Council's approval of the endorsement. 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."
Despite the City Council's endorsement the event remains a divisive issue locally - in a city who's unofficial motto is "Keep Austin Weird".
Questions have also been raised over the June date that the race has been scheduled, as temperatures often reach above 40 degrees celsius, and word has it that the organisers are lobbying to move the event to a November date, looking to run the race back-to-back with the Brazilian GP.