Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during a press conference in Weehawken, New Jersey today revealed a ten-year deal with Formula One to stage a Grand Prix in West New York from 2013 onwards. Christie stated the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial will be a 3.2 mile road course, and expects 100,000 spectators a day will attend the venue. “New Jersey remains a leader in hosting all sorts of international events. We are solidifying New Jersey as a destination for all kinds of sports.” Governor Christie added, “This is another example of what we can do when we work together. We promise everyone a great event I can assure the people from Formula One this is going to be one of the wisest decisions you've ever made.”
West New York Mayor Felix Roque yesterday already told Reuters, “This is the top of the line in motor racing, it's incredible. This is going to be an economic boom for this whole region. While political and public servants talk about creating jobs, the Governor has put the pedal to the metal and delivered.”
The Governor’s office also reported no community monies will be used to sponsor the event in any way. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported the Mayors of Weehawken and West New York were in talks with ‘a group of investors led by Leo Hindery, Jr., a former chief executive of the YES Network’. During today’s press conference Hindery said FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, had officially approved the proposal. Hindery also stressed no tax payer’s money was involved in the deal, “From the start we’ve said that we’d pay for the privilege, without public expenditure.”
Notably absent at the press conference today was Ecclestone, who as early as 2009 already started negotiations to put the long-term deal together. Ecclestone is on his way to attend the inaugural Indian Grand Prix which will take place this weekend at the Buddh International Circuit. Ecclestone finally achieved his life-long ambition to stage a Grand Prix with New York’s skyscrapers as a stunning backdrop. “I've wanted to do this for years. You'll be able to see the Manhattan skyline on television”, he was quoted saying by the UK Mail.
In a joint statement the Mayor of Weehawken, Richard Turner, and Mayor Roque emphasized the 10-year deal would also be a boost to the local economy, “In these uncertain economic times when every direct and indirect revenue source is vital, our own Formula One race could be a very positive boost to our citizens.” The statement further read, “This said, we need to ensure that the financial benefits from the privilege of having these races in our towns are equitably shared and that no tax dollars are used. The investor group has already told us that our towns would be substantially compensated annually.”
The street track will run along the Hudson River in Weehawken and West New York, and has been described as ‘a challenging course, similar to Spa in Belgium, but with the feel of Monaco’ with the spectacular Manhattan sky-line as backdrop.
Formula One and especially the manufacturer teams have made it no secret they would like to return to the North American continent which would be of great use for their marketing strategy, and they can now look forward to two Formula One races each season from 2013 onwards.
In the past the Watkins Glen International circuit hosted Formula One races from 1961 to 1980, and later Formula One races have been held in Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix and Indianapolis. The last Formula One Grand Prix held on American soil was the 2007 American Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, won by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
Next year the Formula One fraternity will return to the United States on 16-18 November on the still to be built Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas, a race promoted by Formula 1 United States Chairman Tavo Hellmund and his Full Throttle Productions, who also struck a 10-year deal with Ecclestone last year.
Hellmund congratulated the Grand Prix of America team, “I know how much work they have put into making this happen. When I walked the site a few years ago, the site’s potential was obvious. I am excited for the East Coast and feel Tuesday’s announcement is yet another acknowledgement of the viability, fan interest, economic benefits and prestige an F1 Grand Prix event brings to a region.”