TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) - It's safe to say that you need a track before you can have a race. Formula One selecting its venue in Southeast Travis County was a leap of faith, since the site had yet to be built.
Now under construction, Circuit of The Americas should be complete by the Nov. 18 inaugural race date weekend. And other events are banking on its finish -- and perhaps a ripple effect from potential state funding for its lead event.
Tapping the state's Major Events Trust Fund – in this case, around $29 million -- has long been a controversial conversation for F1. None of that funding has gone to organizers yet. Though the comptroller has approved its application, any financial exchange is contingent on an economically successful race.
From his economic mission in Italy this week, Gov. Rick Perry told reporters over the phone about the success he has seen at that nation's Grand Prix event. But his excitement for Austin's F1 race ran well beyond one weekend -- instead focusing on an entire year and several different money-makers.
"You've got the V8 Supercars contract from 2013-2018," Perry said. "And there's going to be 800,000 to 1.2 million people expected to attend these various events."
Beyond F1, organizers confirm they are in talks with V8 Supercars and the American LeMans series -- events that are, no doubt, coming to town specifically for this site.
"We're talking about the economic impact that is going to grow," COTA's Geoff Moore said in February. "When you talk about an economic impact of $300 million, well there's going to be eventually 10 to 12 events out there a year that all have their own economic impact."
Reaping the benefit of what might come from the state, these events could piggyback off F1's possible payment. Though organizers say construction is a private investment, state law says they can technically receive money from the Major Events Trust Fund for construction, as well.
"We will submit a variety of expenses associated with conducting the event, and the comptroller's office will review and decide what is reimbursable," said Julie Loignon, CoTA spokeswoman.
While the money might not go toward actually building the multi-million dollar facility, the mere fact that this state fund is in play with an event that does not already have a venue is rare. The following list details all METF approvals, each with a pre-existing venue:
- 2004 - Super Bowl - Reliant Stadium, Houston
- 2004 - NCAA Final Four – Alamodome, San Antonio
- 2004 - Major League Baseball All Star Game – Minute Maid Park, Houston
- 2006 - National Basketball Association All Star Game – Toyota Center, Houston
- 2007 - National Hockey League All Star Game – American Airlines Center, Dallas
- 2008 - NCAA Final Four – Alamodome, San Antonio
- 2010 - National Basketball Association All Star Game – Cowboys Stadium, Arlington
- 2010 - NCAA Women's Final Four – Alamodome, San Antonio
- 2011 - Super Bowl – Cowboys Stadium, Arlington
- 2011 - NCAA Final Four – Reliant Stadium, Houston
- 2011 - Summer National Senior Games – George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston
- 2012 - National Cutting Horse Association Summer Spectacular - Will Rogers Coliseum, Fort Worth
- 2012 - USA Olympic Marathon Trials – Downtown Houston
- 2012 - Annual AAU Junior Olympics – George R. Brown Convention Center; Kinkaid High School; Palace Bowling Lanes; Pearland Natatorium; and Turner Stadium at Humble High School - Houston
- 2013 - National Basketball Association All Star Game – Toyota Center, Houston
Still, some critics say Austin's Grand Prix should not be eligible for METF money, because certain legal steps might have been skipped on the way to that funding possibility. There is no official document on file showing the city or county participated in a "highly competitive site selection process" with F1 officials before the decision was made to bring the race to Texas, as required by statute.
"The plain truth is that F1 selected Austin on its own without any invitation, before that selection, from any local official with authority to obligate expenditure of tax money under the METF statute," said former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire, an F1 watchdog. "That statute is supposed to be locally driven, therefore F1 is not eligible under the METF statute for tax funding. It is shameful to have public officials ignore that fact and give away scarce tax money."
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