The Austin City Council unanimously rejected June 28 a proposal to build a temporary international customs terminal for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to accommodate extra charter flights for Formula One.
On June 14, council heard a briefing on preparations for the Nov. 18 F1 race, which is expected to draw 120,000 fans—42,000 of whom are expected to arrive via international flights.
As a part of that briefing, ABIA Executive Director Jim Smith said the temporary facility would remain for five years, as the Grand Prix will be held in Austin for the next 10 years. In the meantime, construction would begin on a permanent building.
However at the June 28 meeting, members rejected approval of a nearly $5.5 million contract with Siemens Industry Inc. to build the temporary facility because of concerns about necessity and long-term benefits.
When questioned by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, ABIA Chief Operations Officer Patti Edwards said without the customs facility in Austin, most travelers will likely pass through customs in Dallas or Houston.
Further, she said it was estimated that the average charter flight for the F1 race would generate about $9,000 in landing fees and fuel purchases.
"This is probably not the best use of that $5 million," Councilman Bill Spelman said. "It would take 606 charters to pay for this building, and I suspect we won't get those in the next two or three years."