Less than 90 days from the United States Grand Prix, construction at Circuit of the Americas is coming along at a rate that looks like it'll be done with time to spare. So now most of the attention has moved from the track to what will be happening in the City over what will surely be one of busiest, craziest, and most important weekends in modern Austin history.
These two massive downtown public parties will both be free and will both have streets blocked downtown all weekend.
Important because Austin, Texas will be directly in the bulls eye of the wealthy, international Formula 1 community and that means money will be flowing here like never before.
Some of the rumors floating around are simply ridiculous, like $500 Super 8 motel rooms, while others are completely true, like $20,000 per week home rentals.
In fact, real estate professionals are preparing for a boom. They suggest Austin will see an explosion in residential and commercial real estate sales immediately following the race as international visitors decide they kind of like what they see and buy a place to stay. "We're being told to keep the week after the race open," one broker told me, asking to remain nameless for competitive reasons (I guess I just blew the secret). "We think office space especially will start to sell very quickly."
For those of us who already live here, whether you head to Elroy, Texas or not, downtown will be buzzing with F1 action. COTA is planning a huge party, not at Auditorium Shores, that is out of the discussion since the Junior League's Christmas Affair will be going on at the Palmer Events Center; no, it'll be downtown. It's called Fan Fest and the epicenter will be at 3rd and Congress where a stage will show off huge international acts. The act getting most of the rumor-mongering — I won't name it to avoid being accused of spreading rumors — happens to include a certain former American Idol judge and 80s rock legend not named Jennifer Lopez ort Randy Jackson, but that's totally rumor.
From 2nd Street to 4th Street you'll be able to party like a wealthy European race car fan, while just a few blocks up Congress, Paul Carrozza of Run Tex is leading the charge to create "Experience Austin," an eight block, block party featuring what can only be described as the best of Austin. Each block — between 8th Street and 11th Street, from Colorado to Brazos — will host a different theme, green living, keeping it weird, international culture, that sort of thing. "We want to show off the best of Austin for everyone planning to come to town," explained Carrozza. It promises to be the biggest weekend downtown since the millennium celebration.
These two massive public parties will both be free and will both have streets blocked downtown all weekend. They do promise to try and keep Ceasar Chavez, 6th Street and 7th Street open, although whether any cars will actually be moving is another question.
Fan Fest will be open from 6:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. on Friday November 16, and from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Saturday, and 10:00 a.m. to approximately 1:00 a.m. on Sunday night.
- The epicenter for this event will be 3rd and Congress Ave.
- Formula 1 cars will be on display, as well as racing simulators and other activities that will be appropriate for the entire family.
- There will be both local live music acts and national “top 40” style acts.
- The website austinfanfest.com will be online soon with all the information
Experience Austin is being organized by Run Tex and will be open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
- Based on ticket sales. Circuit of the Americas estimates 85 percent of the visitors will be from the United States with the majority of foreign visitors will be from Mexico, and are likely to have been to the United States before.
- Most visitors are expected to come to Austin for the entire week not just race weekend.
- The city expects traffic congestion to be similar to what its like during the music portion of SXSW.
- 6th Street may be closed earlier than on normal weekends, even though there are no specific events planned on 6th Street. This will be due to excessive pedestrian traffic on 6th Street, and will be done at the Austin Police Department’s discretion.
There is also very specific advice being given to businesses hoping to cash in on the big weekend. In fact Circuit of the Americas plans to host some October workshops specifically for the hospitality industry. They say:
- Businesses should plan on staying open later to accommodate visitors, and some should plan on opening earlier to accommodate Formula 1 staff that will head to the track early in the morning.
- Restaurants should plan on foreign diners spending more time at the table unlike Americans. They should also be prepared for an unfamiliar foreigner to not leave a tip.
- Local businesses are recommended to register at locallyaustin.org
- The city’s website for all things related to Formula 1 is atxgrandprix.org
The City of Austin Small Business Development Center hosted a great event “Preparing for the Formula 1 US Grand Prix” this week, and they have another such workshop scheduled for August 28th (click here to register). It was a surprise to see that more than 90 percent of the local business owners present had already watched a Formula 1 Grand Prix on television.
On the actual racing front, Formula 1 is in the midst of its summer break. Racing begins again August 31st.
In the meantime, Circuit of the Americas sends out a press release nearly everyday now as they gear up for race day. Today they promoted a special "3-seater Formula GP Experience." For $499 you can ride in a specially designed 3-seat F1 car, pulling 4.5 G's as it races around the track at near F1 speeds. Yes, that has to be insane.