Formula One Will Make its U.S. Return in Austin

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Everyone knew it was coming. Since the Formula One Indianapolis deal ended in 2007, everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before the sport returned to the States. The question was when it would happen, and where the race would be held. Many had speculated that it might be Law Vegas or New York, or that it would return to Indianapolis, but in the end, the winner is a bit of a surprise: It’s Austin, Texas.

The deal, which covers 2012-2021 was sealed when Austin voters recently opted to put up $25 million to build a new Grand Prix track in the city. Austin residents have long felt bitter about the dearth of professional sports in their great city, and this vote comes on a wave of optimism that things could start turning around in this area.

And they might be right. Formula One racing may not be the biggest automotive sport in the U.S., but it is huge worldwide, and the event is likely to bring some much-needed commerce to the Texas capital.

Of course, as followers of Formula One know, the bar for racetracks has been on the rise in recent years, as new tracks in places like China and Malaysia have been stunning in their scope and high-tech futurism. If Austin hopes to compete with these overseas tracks, they’re going to have to come up with something special, and $25 million obviously won’t cover it.

Texas is one of the U.S. states to be least hard-hit by the recent economic troubles, so if there’s any state in the union that can cover the inflating costs of a new racetrack, it’s them. This is not to say that they will go all-out in building their track, but there is likely to be broad statewide support for this development, so there should be nothing to worry about.

The history of Formula One racing in the U.S. has been patchy. The sport first came to this country at a venue in Watkins Glen, N.Y., which hosted an international competition for 20 straight years. After that, the U.S. Formula One race has moved around from Southern California, to Las Vegas, to Detroit, to Dallas, to Phoenix, and then to Indianapolis.

The difference with the Austin track is that it’s going to be built specifically for Formula One racing, and it’s designed to be permanent. When you combine this with the 10-year deal (with the potential for renewal), this development should have a profound impact on the city of Austin.

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