Op-Ed: One way to offset the cost of USGP construction

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Now, I admit there is no way I’ve seen every comment or article about the USGP planned for Austin, Texas.

I’ve tried to follow as many as I can, however.

There seem to be a few consistent storylines — nothing too unexpected:

1. Can they do it?
2. How much is it going to cost and how much is it going to cost Texas taxpayers?
3. Will it be successful / can Formula 1 be a success in the U.S.?
4. Is it a feint by Bernie Ecclestone to get another venue up to speed?

I’m remaining optimistic that the promoters can, in fact, do it. I think the solid financial/personnel backing they have is far more promising than anyone USF1 managed to get, for instance. (USF1’s failure being the main comparison point for the “Can they do it?” question.)

Whether it can be successful or whether Formula 1 can finally, permanently penetrate the American sports market is a question we won’t know until the race has happened — multiple times. I think we can hope that there are enough people focused on these concerns that there will be some thought put in before hand that just might help ensure success.

Is it a feint by Bernie, who keeps mentioning New York? Who knows? I do wonder how the U.S. could go from zero to two races, and what that second race would be called, but with Bernie, anything’s possible. The Grand Prix of New York probably has close to the same cache as the U.S. GP or the German Grand Prix or the Singapore Grand Prix. New York is one of those cities that can stand on its own.

My thinking today, though, is about the cost. As Todd posted while I was on vacation, the construction costs being projected are lower than most initial estimates: in the $180 million area.

There seems to be some skepticism that such a frugal figure will do. But even at less than $200 million, that’s a huge chunk of change. I know Red McCombs — the deep pockets of this venture — has the dollars to make the downpayment, but they can’t be relying on just his fortune.

There’s one idea I haven’t seen mentioned yet (again, I think I’ve seen lots of the coverage, but not all, so maybe it has been talked about): selling the “stadium rights.”

What might this complex’s name be worth? While we aren’t in the go-go ’90s and early 2000s, when companies were slapping their names on every new football (American version) and baseball stadium, there still must be some value to claiming the “Formula 1 Blog Motorsports Park” or whatever the name might be.

I like it: The U.S. Grand Prix at Formula 1 Blog Motorsports Park. Kinda catchy?

It has long struck me as a strange quirk in American sports that fans seem to be OK with selling the names to most every stadium (a few classics like Wrigley Field are the exception… wait, Wrigley’s also a big company?!? Oh my!) but not plastering uniforms with ads, ala (European) football/soccer jerseys.

To get maximum value, any “sale” of the complex also would have to leverage the other events being bandied about as potential “tenants”: NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS. It might even help the sale if there were a few non-motorsports events to broaden the audience. Air shows, maybe? (Of course, barbecues, as we have mentioned. How about a U.S. BBQ Championship held there?)

It’s one way, at least, to help move the ball to the goal line… or I guess I should say, “push the F1 car to the checkered flag” to be consistent with my metaphors. Are there other fundraising efforts you think the USGP promoters should be planning? When should they start announcing them? And who might be a good target for the “buy”?


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