AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Perfect Storm that swept through town last weekend also put a soggy hit on the Formula 1 race out at the Circuit of the Americas. Sunday race crowds have dropped four straight years since the 2012 inaugural race, and rains, mud and delays didn’t help any this year. While the track owners concede the storm produced too many hurdles to overcome, they say there are answers for the future and the Sunday race and concert were not a total washout.
COTA chairman Bobby Epstein says, “I would say we had the strongest hurricane in the history of the western hemisphere and we’re really sorry they had a bad experience.” He points out his 5,000 employees and volunteers pulled yeoman’s duty helping patrons over three rainy, cold days. The storm wiped out 8,000 of COTA’s 20,000 parking spaces on-site. Dozens of shuttle buses were rented, but folks who insisted parking close traipsed through mud, walked down the narrow roads and bogged everything up.
According to Epstein, “The wait for the buses was something no one wanted. Clearly that part of the city lacks infrastructure and if it weren’t for roadside flooding and mud and if there were sidewalks, we wouldn’t run into this problem.” He quickly adds, “I think more important than could we have done something different is do you know how to solve this and the answer is yes.”
COTA lost $2 million in concession sales Sunday and attendance was down several thousand but those who stuck it out saw a thrilling race that decided the world title. 40,000 hung around for a concert by Sir Elton John. If COTA wasn’t a yellow brick road this year, they do see sunnier times ahead.
It may be awhile before COTA pays off it’s original construction costs, but it is a steady effort. There will be 365 events there this year, often many are on the same day. July and August, with the Texas heat, are the slow periods. COTA maintains it provides an annual $700 million impact on the city of Austin.