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F1 team announces name of new track

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

At a press conference yesterday, San Antonio businessman and key Formula 1 investor Red McCombs unveiled the new name for the F1 racetrack currently under construction in Elroy — Circuit of the Americas. Soon after, presenters discussed future plans for the track, emphasizing its year-round use and the anticipated positive economic impact it will have on Austin.

While the Circuit of the Americas track already has a 10-year contract to host the Formula 1 Untied States Grand Prix, Tavo Hellmund, chairman of Formula 1 United States, announced yesterday that motorcycle race MotoGP has also committed to a 10-year contract with the facility, starting in 2013.

“What it really means, and I don’t know if people can totally grasp this, it means for the first time in American sporting facilities history, both the two-wheel world championship and the four-wheel world championship will be held at the same facility on an annual basis,” said Hellmund.

Owners estimate that the deal with MotoGP owner Dorna Sports will have “a huge economic impact” on the city and state, noting that the most recent MotoGP race in Spain drew 123,000 spectators to a rain-drenched track.

“More people will come from out of the country than for any other sporting event held in the United States,” said Robert A. Epstein, founder and managing general partner of Prophet Capital Management, which has played a significant role in bringing F1 to the area. He estimated that the amount of money that race goers will spend in Austin “should be $3 to $6 billion over the next 10 to 15 years.”

“This facility is becoming an engine of its own. The impact on the economy is just beginning to get clarity,” said Epstein. “From an immediate construction impact, the ongoing annuity to the people of Texas, the numbers are massive. For example, the total expenditures on the construction and related work alone, the numbers are now approaching $400 million, and 80 percent of that is staying local.”

Addressing concerns that the track will sit dormant most of the year, presenters said the track can and will be used full-time.

Hellmund said that in addition to being a venue for bicycle and foot races and for law enforcement training, the facility will also feature “infrastructure … that were not requirements for races whatsoever.”

For example, Hellmund revealed plans for a meeting space, conference center, and banquet hall. Construction is also underway on a live music performance space that will be able to hold a crowd of 25,000 to 35,000 people.

The track’s medical building and trauma center will also be available for training purposes during non-race times.

“It will be a medical center for the motorsports events, and then we’ll use it for training during the non-major events, so training with local units, training with local police and fire departments,” Steve Sexton, president of COTA, told In Fact Daily. “It can be used for more than that, but that’s just the best opportunity to use the facility.”

COTA spokesmen also announced partnerships with Texas A&M, Huston Tillotson University, St Edwards, and the Del Valle Independent School District.

Notably absent was the mention of any partnership with UT Austin. “We were hoping we would be able to announce a couple other universities, and that should be coming in the next couple weeks,” said Hellmund.

Hellmund also anticipates making an announcement this summer about a research and development deal with auto manufacturers that will involve a permanent facility at COTA. “It’s more than likely not going to be one auto manufacturer; it’s more than likely going to be two,” he said.

Local dignitaries attending Tuesday’s press conference included Senator Kirk Watson, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, City Manager Marc Ott, and Representative Eddie Rodriguez.

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