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DATE News (chronologically)
11/11/12
f1
Austin geared up and ready to go
Formula One, take one.

Two and a half years after the surprising news broke that Central Texas would host a Formula One race, after 20 months of construction and $300 million or more spent on the track, Austin this week will find out what it really means to have about 115,000 fans converge from all over the world to watch a grand prix race.

“It’s like having the Super Bowl here,” said Steve Sexton, president of the Circuit of the Americas. “Like having a Super Bowl here every year for the next 10 years.”

Local authorities and track officials acknowledge that despite what has been an exhaustive planning effort with legions of police, fire and emergency medical services personnel mobilizing to work this weekend, the actual height of the wave about to crash over the area is hard to gauge. Up to 70 percent of those who have bought the three-day tickets — ranging from $169 general admission to several thousand dollars for premium seats — are from outside Texas, and only about 10 percent are from Central Texas, Sexton said.

About 20,000, officials say, are from other countries.

“We’ve sold (race tickets) in over 50 countries, and we’ve sold in every U.S. state,” Sexton said.

But the effect on traffic, sidewalks, restaurants, bars and life here in general over the next week will be exacerbated by an unknown influx of those who come to Austin to experience the scene, and by curious Central Texans drawn to downtown by Austin Fan Fest. That street festival in the Warehouse and Second Street districts will close some streets from Wednesday to Monday and, at its height over the weekend, will require closing 12 city blocks, including Congress Avenue from Second to Fifth streets.

Police will also close lanes on several blocks of Trinity Street between East 15th Street and East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for a Formula One shuttle bus stop. And police will barricade East Sixth Street, as usual, between Brazos and Red River streets from 10 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday and from 10 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Monday. Closures are possible on Thursday and Sunday nights, depending on the size of the crowds.

Capital Metro, looking to ease that downtown jam, will run a special, free circulator route around downtown every 15 minutes Friday through Sunday.

Then there’s the expected traffic in the Texas 130 corridor and other routes to the track. About 17,000 fans are expected to arrive at the track by private vehicles. The rest will arrive on 400 shuttle buses running from downtown, the Travis County Expo Center and two other lots. Some will arrive by taxi.

Throw in helicopters, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and even bicycles, and “we have almost every form of transit except maybe skateboards and riding on an animal,” Sexton said. (Bicyclists, oddly, aren’t allowed to enter the track area; instead they must lock up their bikes at a park near the airport and take a shuttle from there.)

Will all of that be enough to avoid grinding traffic near the track, the airport and downtown? Only this first spin around the F1 track, so to speak, will answer that question, officials say.

“We’ve learned that even the best-laid plans are not fool proof,” Austin City Manager Marc Ott said last week. “We’ll probably have some unexpected issues along the way.”

Calendar of Events:

Monday:

A flurry of activity is happening around the circuit, including teams setting up their garages and other race-related preparations. Furniture and equipment continue to arrive. Workers continue to finish temporary seating areas, put up signs to direct spectators around the track, and clean and prepare public areas. Food and beverage facilities are being stocked.

Tuesday:

Teams continue to prepare garages and cars for the race. Preparations at the circuit continue.

Wednesday:

All team personnel have arrived, including drivers. Teams continue preparing for the race, while circuit preparations continue. Promotional events begin around town.

Thursday:

The bulk of Formula One fans are expected to arrive at the airport. About 150 charter and private airplanes are expected, including at least 30 planes coming from foreign airports. Team and circuit race preparation continue. Promotional events, concerts and parties are planned around Austin and surrounding cities.

Friday:

Shuttles begin running at 7 a.m. and circuit gates open at 7:30 a.m. Last shuttle runs from the track are 3 1/2 hours after the last racing event of the day.

Formula One practices are from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Practice sessions for support races — Historic Grand Prix, Ferrari Challenge and Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA West — take place throughout the day.

Austin Fan Fest, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Centered in the Warehouse and Second Street districts, the event includes free music at five stages, Formula One-related activities and headliner concerts at nearby larger venues.

Promotional events, concerts and parties are planned around Austin and surrounding cities throughout the day.

Saturday:

Shuttles run from 7 a.m. to 3 1/2 hours after last racing event of the day. Circuit gates open at 7:30 a.m.

Formula One practice: 9 to 10 a.m.

Formula One qualifying begins at noon.

Support series will hold practice sessions, qualifying and races throughout the day.

Concert at the circuit: 4:30 p.m.

Austin Fan Fest downtown, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Promotional events, concerts and parties are planned around Austin and surrounding cities throughout the day.

Sunday:

Shuttles run from 7 a.m. to 3 1/2 hours after the U.S. Grand Prix. Circuit gates open at 7:30 a.m.

U.S. Grand Prix begins at 1 p.m.

Concert at the circuit: 3:15 p.m.

Austin Fan Fest downtown runs from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Promotional events, concerts and parties are planned around Austin and surrounding cities throughout the day.

*Subject to change  The Statesman

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