The Vegas Grand Prix is the much anticipated jewel in the crown for Formula One. Never has the commercial rights holder of the sport invested in building the infrastructure and promoting a race in the history of the sport.
So how is it going? Liberty Media have acquired more than just one block of real estate in Las Vegas and have built a permanent pit lane with a huge grandstand with at least three times the capacity of the one in COTA.
F1 offer high seating capacity direct
Further, they have acquired land adjacent to the start/finish straight and erected a huge number of temporary grandstands there too at an estimated cost of around $560m.
Having walked the circuit today I am shocked at the sheer volume of seating provided direct from Liberty Media and the corporate offering exceeds by far anything offered elsewhere on the calendar.
The famous Bellagio hotel with its fountains is located towards the end of the back straight, yet their corporate offering is tiny compared to that of the FOM direct capacity.
TJ13 reported months ago of a dispute between Planet Hollywood and F1 over whether they should be paying $1500 per seat capacity in the resort for the privilege of fans being able to watch the race behind bullet proof glass screens.
Threats to Planet Hollywood as yet unfulfilled
As of yet FOM have failed to deliver on their promise to screen off the view from the huge Vegas resort, though this writer can state watching the race from inside Planet Hollywood would be a hollow experience.
The circuit around the pit lane and start/finish straight has been contrived to maximise the number of temporary grandstand seating FOM can fit into such a relatively small area. Yet all this pales into insignificance when talking to the locals and their opinion of their world class up coming sporting event.
The chaos currently caused by the setup and traffic restrictions has upset the Las Vegas locals more than just a touch. One bar owner told me his ride home was usually 15 minutes, but with the road closures and traffic congestion this has now increased to as long as 90 minutes and we are just under three weeks before the race.
Some business owners tell me the strip will be closed for a week before and after the Grand Prix and they are bemused how this is possible. Despite the local authorities building temporary roads which bridge the back straight, congestion is worse than New York City at present.
F1 partners get small fan areas
The grandstands at the major hotels who have partnered with F1 are tiny in terms of their capacity compared to the seating F1 are providing themselves and another hotel manager told me the prices for rooms over the F1 weekend has almost quartered since the tickets first went on sale.
Having attended the race in Austin just over a week ago the atmosphere within Vegas and the Texas capital is chalk and cheese. For the race at COTA, which has for granted been running for eleven years, the city was alive with Formula One fervour. By contrast, Vegas people seemed irritated by the fact F1 is coming to town and many believe it will, in fact, hurt their businesses.
One small Casino/hotel has its entrance/exit for cars just around turn 4 and they have been informed they will be unable to take road traffic onto their property for 12 days before and after the Grand Prix. The owner told me he will receive nothing from either the Las Vegas authorities or from F1 and will just be out of pocket for the duration of the event.
Another local business owner told me there had been a rise in local resident s petitioning the authorities for the race to be cancelled from next year onwards, and when I informed them there was a ten year contract between the parties they were dismayed beyond belief.
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Only seats worth having opposite Pit Lane
Having walked the circuit, my advice to anyone attending the event would be that only grandstand tickets opposite the pits are worth having because the lines of sight around the rest of the track are poor.
As a writer, I have been in general support of Liberty Media and their new F1 regime and they have improved the sport significantly since the days of Bernie Ecclestone’s divide and conquer approach.
However, the Las Vegas Grand Prix is all about glamour and money, and it could be F1 has bitten off more than it can chew. Sin City has the single biggest inter-US immigration in the last six months and the property market here is seeing boom times.
Further, the vast sums of money brought in from the Mega Casino’s which take hours to fully eclipse the 3 cash inflows and dwarf any kind of impact on the local economy Formula One can bring about.
Las Vegas does not need F1
Unlike Monaco, Las Vegas does not need Formula One and it seems the city elders have been duped into creating havoc in their city for what the locals perceive to be at best a marginal gain in tourism.
Hotel prices have collapsed since the first tranche of tickets were sold and the Flamingo in the heart of the Las Vegas strip is offering rooms at €115 a night (taxes included) for the 16th-18th November on booking.com (all fees included).
The famous Horseshoe hotel where the world poker championships are held – opposite the enormous Caesars Palace – resort is now just €243 for the two nights – and even Caesars have dropped their price from over €1000 a night to just €250.
This doesn’t mean the F1 race in Vegas won’t be a monumental financial success for the commercial rights holders of F1, but unless the mega bucks cascades down into the local economy there could be resistance against this race for the next decade like never before.
Vegas not a sporting city
Whilst Las Vegas has just built the state of the art venue called the Sphere costing $2bn it is not really a sporting city. The baseball team is poorly attended though about to get a new stadium at the tax payers expense at the south end of the strip replacing a faded glory hotel and casino.
There are hopes Vegas will get a basketball franchise which may well play at the sphere. The Raiders football outfit are also poorly supported and the hockey team is rarely claiming honours.
It could just be F1 has made a silly decision based on the wealth of a perceived location, but they may suffer the same poor attendance that the big American local sports fail to garner here.