Paltry Grand-Am crowd in Austin won't help track pay its bills There is no question that Formula One's triumphant return to the U.S. at the new Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas, last November was an unqualified success, but the question lingered: What kind of crowd would show up for the rest of COTA's races?
Rumors say the track cost as much as $480 million to build, and it seems obvious that to pay the bills, COTA must attract some sizable crowds throughout the balance of its season. Despite a solid 35-car field for the Grand-Am of the Americas Presented by Gainsco and Total, the announced two-day crowd for the March 1-2 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event was 26,648; F1's three-day mark topped 117,000.
Still, by Grand-Am standards, that's a pretty good audience, despite rumors of COTA ticket giveaways and discounts. And while a Grand-Am race costs the track far less than F1, you still have to wonder how COTA can pay the bills unless subsequent events do better.
COTA has three more pro race weekends scheduled before F1 returns on Nov. 15-17. Next up is MotoGP, April 19-21, followed by the Australian V8 Supercars May 17-19, which includes the Pirelli World Challenge series as a support race. The American Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship series are in town Sept. 19-22.
The track will also begin promoting musical acts at its outdoor Tower Amphitheater, which supposedly can hold as many as 14,000 people, starting on April 5 with a Kenny Chesney concert; future acts include the Zac Brown Band, Jimmy Buffett, the Dave Matthews Band and Train.
There's little doubt that F1, Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett will draw the crowds. Will the rest of the season's races? COTA investors have to hope so. AutoWeek