The mysterious circumstances bringing the U.S. Grand Prix to Austin, Texas and the location of the track were both revealed today. Big-bucks former Vikings/Saints owner Red McCombs will provide the funding, and the track will be out in the sticks.
The selection of Austin as the home of the U.S. Grand Prix for the next ten years was a complete surprise to most — especially those in New York — and few could explain how an unknown event organizer named Tavo Hellmund could find the space or money to host such an event.
We later learned the state of Texas was going to fork over $250 million over ten years, almost directly to F1 manager Bernie Ecclestone's coffers, a key part of the equation. But it wasn't until this morning we learned Red McCombs was going to be a major investor and "quarterback" of the event.
McCombs currently runs the largest car-dealership network in Texas and, through a radio station startup, was a co-founder of Clear Channel Communications. The wealthy businessman is a major contributor to local schools in the area (the University of Texas's business school is the Red McCombs School of Business) and former owner of the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, and Minnesota Vikings.
His interest in this event, therefore, brings together two of his passions: sports and Austin.
As for the site, the Austin American Statesman leaked the location this morning. It'll be in a a mostly undeveloped area ten miles southeast of downtown Austin called Elroy, north of FM 812 near the new Texas 130 toll road. Most of the 900-acre plot was purchased in 2007 with the purpose of eventually building a track.
There's still a question of how what the neighbors will think about having an F1 track in their backyard (so far they seem happy it's not tract housing), and of how they can possibly build a track in less than two years. According to McCombs, Ecclestone asked the same question this morning, and the Texan businessman told him, "This is Texas."
It's still a stretch, but all levels of government seem to be in line with this goal, including the superintendent of the local school district who was on hand and, one can imagine, counting the tax dollars. Organizer Hellmund also hinted at numerous other uses for the facility: conference, other racing, R&D offices, etc.
Rather than downplaying the plans for the F1 facility, everyone speaking at the event seemed to raise expectations. Everything's bigger in Texas, including the promises. Also pretty big? The disappointment if everything doesn't work perfectly.
If you want tickets for the event at a track that hasn't been built yet, you can enter your information here at the newly unveiled F1 website.
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