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Formula One is coming to Austin

May 26, 2010

There’s a lot to love about Austin. The city’s unique character, the excellent food, the music scene, the beautiful vistas of the hill country, the generally laid back, open-minded people.

But yesterday’s news that Formula One would be coming to Austin starting in 2012 struck me like a giant sledgehammer of WTF.

I mean, Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsports. It’s the Major League Baseball to NASCAR’s Major League Soccer. If you’d have asked me on Monday, I’d have told you that Austin would be more likely to host the Olympics than it would the U.S. Grand Prix.

But somehow, randomly, that’s now the case. And we’re even going to be building a dedicated road course, the first built specifically to host F1 in the United States (fingers crossed beyond all belief that they’ll host track days!).

While the details are still pretty far out, it goes without saying that this announcement is going to have HUGE repercussions for Austin.

First, this move will put Austin on the map in a way it’s never been before. Sure, we’re known for a pretty awesome music scene, and increasingly for our innovative tech sector. Hosting F1 will toss Austin up there alongside Indianapolis and Daytona as one of the motorsports meccas of the country.

Second, the U.S. Grand Prix will almost certainly become Austin’s single largest annual event. This spring, South by Southwest drew a crowd of around 100,000 over the course of a week or so. The Austin City Limits Festival usually attracts around 150,000 people over the course of three days.

How does Formula One stack up? Well, the nearest F1 host city, Montreal, draws around 120,000 attendees on raceday Sunday alone. Over the whole four-day course of the race weekend, the number is usually around three times that.

So imagine the crowd that descends upon Austin for ACL, then triple it. That’s about what we can expect. Except instead of new media douchebags or hipster douchebags, it’ll be Eurotrash motorsports douchebags.

The Puma store better watch out.

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