By Berthold Bouman F1 Correspondent
The Austin City Counsel today officially announced to endorse the Formula One United States Grand Prix in 2012. After a voting the City Council approved an environmental agreement between the city of Austin and the Circuit of the Americas.
Steve Sexton, President of Circuit of The Americas, “We appreciate the Council’s approval of the endorsement. Austin is a unique community and the environmental provisions we worked together to craft with Council demonstrate our commitment to produce an event aligned with the values and vision of the City.”
He admitted this agreement was vital for the development of the circuit, “This is a major step toward our vision of bringing the world to Austin to enjoy one of the most spectacular international events in sports. This partnership sets a new standard that every new sports or entertainment venue around the world can emulate.” The circuit is now in its first stage of construction, and major excavation groundwork is already nearing completion.
Only last week the Austin City Council postponed the voting as some council members feared there could be loopholes in the environmental requirements, and wanted the full details before they could give the project their blessing. Other members opposed the subsidy for the project as budgets for education and social services have recently been slashed. With the City Council now endorsing the agreement, the Circuit of the Americas will also receive up to $25 million a year in state subsidies from the Texas Major Events Trust Fund. Other venues that receive support of the fund are the Super Bowl and the NCAA Men’s Final Four.
Texas state Comptroller Susan Combs will make the subsidy available by the end of July to help the US GP promoters, Tavo Hellmund’s Full Throttle Productions, to pay the Formula One sanctioning fee. According to the Austin American Statesman, the promoters agreed to pay ‘up to $15,000 for carbon offsets, such as planting trees, and invest $5 million for on-site research into green technology, among other things’.
Council member Chris Riley and environmental activists have now secured environmental concessions from the promoters, the idea of the agreement was to make the US GP an ‘environmentally conscious event.’ "I'm proud of the partnership between the City and Circuit of The Americas to develop and build what will be among the greenest, most high-tech sports and entertainment facilities anywhere," said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
The promoters agreed to plant hundreds of trees, and the organizers will also hire low-emission shuttles that will bring the spectators to the circuit, limit parking at the track and are also exploring the possibility to move the event which is scheduled for June 17 2012, to a cooler time of the year when Austin is ‘less likely to have ozone warnings in effect.’ Whether rescheduling the event is possible remains to be seen, as the original plan was to pair it with the Canadian Grand Prix for logistical reasons.
About the plans the statement said, “The plan includes elements ranging from offsite transportation options and dedicated bicycle lane access to incorporation of a community garden area, water-conservation measures, and the planting of over 800 trees. In addition, the venue will promote and host alternative vehicle races.”
The statement from the Circuit of the Americas further read, “Circuit of The Americas, the world-class sports and entertainment facility under construction in southeast Travis County, will be among the most technologically and environmentally advanced venues in the world. Race organizers and a group of community environmentalists have devised a 54-point plan to position Circuit of The Americas as the “greenest” sporting facility in the Americas.”
The Austin American Statesman today reported the agreement included ‘Powering at least half the facility's operations through a combination of solar panels, wind turbines or the city's GreenChoice program, which uses renewable energy but is more expensive than the city's standard rate; planting drought-tolerant shrubs; making at least 5 acres that sit in a flood plain available for a community garden, and the circuit will also be collaborating with the University of Texas' Austin Technology Incubator and other academic institutions to create a research center for environmentally friendly racing.’