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Commissioners approve permit for ‘Formula Run’ 5-K

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 by Michael Kanin

Travis County Commissioners approved a Mass Gatherings Permit on Tuesday for a five-kilometer foot race at the soon-to-be-opened Circuit of the Americas complex, an event that could attract up to 10,000 participants and serve as an open house and observational dry run for the inaugural Formula 1 race scheduled Nov. 16 to 18.


Each of four key county departments told commissioners that the new “Formula Run,” sponsored by the Austin running apparel retailer, RunTex, met all minimum standards to proceed, though staffers with the county’s Transportation and Natural Resources said that a key area road will not be finished in time for the 5-K run scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 3.


Area residents continued to worry about events at the track and what impact the circuit’s calendar will have on their day-to-day lives. Elroy Neighborhood Association President Cathy Olive told commissioners that the uncompleted street – a section of Kellem Road – was still just “dirt” as of Tuesday morning, which Circuit of the Americas traffic consultant Aaron Nathan. Nathan said that his team planned to place a traffic control officer at the site, and they do not anticipate significant congestion as a result.


Nathan said that the street should be completed by race weekend. Commissioner Margaret Gomez noted that this was the plan all along. “That was the original plan, to get Kellem completed by the race because of the need to have emergency vehicles available to the residents … as well as for the visitors who are coming to that area,” Gomez said.


With the Austin Grand Prix race and the many related events just weeks away, area residents are beginning to get a clearer picture of what to expect come mid-November. On Monday, news came that the two official downtown race week festivals would consolidate – a move that could save on street closures.


At a briefing held last week for Austin City Council members, Rodney Gonzales, the Deputy Director of the city’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office joined a cadre of other officials for a run-down of preparations. Gonzales showed Council members a busy calendar of Austin’s November events.


On Sunday, Nov. 4, is the Komen Race for the Cure held downtown. On Wednesday, Nov. 7, the F1 teams’ cargo planes begin to arrive. Saturday, Nov. 10 features a home University of Texas football game, followed on Sunday, Nov. 11 by the Veterans’ Day Parade.


Formula 1 teams begin to arrive on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Most fans are expected to arrive on Thursday, Nov. 15. Practice runs at the track begin on Friday, Nov. 16. The city’s plans note that most race fans – up to 120,000 – and teams will be in the capital region until Monday, Nov. 19.


Thanksgiving – and its accompanying travel rush – is Thursday, Nov. 22, as is another home UT football game. “As you can tell, November is going to be a very busy month for this city,” Gonzales told Council members Thursday.


On Tuesday, commissioners saw little reason to deny foot race organizers their Mass Gatherings permit for the foot race, which organizers said would be held on the Circuit of the America’s track and paddock area. Even Commissioner Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt – who has voted against county subsidies for road construction associated with the track – was ready to approve the permit.


“I only make note of past opposition to the level of public subsidy for this exciting private venture,” she said.


Circuit of the Americas will also pull in millions of dollars in State of Texas funds as part of an incentives agreement to bring Formula 1 racing to Central Texas. Though the City of Austin signed off on that agreement, city taxpayers are not on the hook for any incentive money.


Some economic impact estimates put city earnings related to the Formula 1 race in the $300 million range.

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