The people behind the proposed Formula 1 track in Austin, Texas, sure are shooting for the stars.
In documents that were released by Austin City Hall -- track officials tried to keep the documents sealed because they contended the docs contained trade secrets -- the people behind the proposed track say that the track would employ 1,500 workers during construction and 1,200 during race weekend as well as bring the area $300 million in revenue.
A spokesman for Full Throttle, Trey Salinas, wrote in an e-mail that the job projections were based on real-world comparisons of other recent F1 construction projects and "are pretty accurate based on our conversations with local contractors we have been having."
Craig Depken, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who is critical of glowing economic impact projections for large sporting events, said such large job estimates can be misleading.
When it comes to construction jobs, for example, "the question is whether these people would be idle otherwise," Depken said. Temporary jobs during race weekends tend to be low-paying, he added.
The documents also detail the range of non-F1 activities Hellmund hopes to attract to the new facility when F1 is not in town. Among them: alternative-fuel automobile research, driving schools, police training facilities, concerts and "high-end auctions (i.e., Barrett-Jackson)." Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. specializes in car collections.
It is unclear how many of those activities would be attracted to an Austin track or are available. A spokeswoman for Barrett-Jackson said it holds auctions only four times a year, in set locations in Arizona, Florida, California and Las Vegas. "We're at capacity now," she said.
And if that's not enough, the track also is aiming to be busy 250 days a year through those other activities. And yes, one of those other activities that Full Throttle managing partner Tavo Hellmund, the front man for the project, envisions is a NASCAR race. Full Throttle is far from publicly operating on specifics outside of the drawings released, so it's unclear which Series he's talking about.
To exist, the track has to receive the $25 million a year for 10 years that it would be appropriated by the Texas Major Events fund. That's a fund composed of taxpayer dollars for, you guessed it, major events. Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is on board with the project, so getting that funding shouldn't be too much of a problem. However, it seems like taxpayers aren't exactly in favor of using that money for a Formula 1 race.
While people like Red McCombs have pledged into the program, it's hard to take Hellmund and the Austin group seriously until all of the financing and appropriate measures have been lined up. That skepticism may be unfair given the failure of USF1, but Formula 1 and Austin don't really go together, even if Dallas last hosted an F1 race in 1984.
It'd be fantastic if the track succeeds but lofty expectactions like Full Throttle's instantly raise eyebrows. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more about this proposed project before ground is ever broken.