Officials plan impact assessments after November race
Officials in Pflugerville, Round Rock and Hutto plan to keep a close eye on the Circuit of The Americas 2012 Formula One race in Austin from Nov. 16–18 and the ways it could affect local economies.
More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the race at the $400 million COTA track situated to the southeast of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. While no studies to estimate the economic impact of F1 have been completed or formally commissioned by Round Rock, Pflugerville or Hutto, officials in all three cities are hoping to feel the effects of visiting race fans, especially on the impact in sales and hotel occupancy taxes.
On Oct. 9, Pflugerville City Council approved an action authorizing two city representatives to attend the race as part of an effort to survey the event for economic development impact. City spokeswoman Terri Waggoner and Councilman Wayne Cooper were selected to attend as crowd spectators at an estimated cost of $1,600.
Waggoner said while many of the hotels situated along I-35 are close to Pflugerville, there are none currently within city limits, causing the city to think about other ways to capture dollars from the surge of out-of- town visitors.
“I’ll be looking at it with a different eye,” Waggoner said. “I’m going to be at the event, as an independent spectator ... trying to see what could be done for the city.”
Waggoner said she will be looking at sponsor and vendor activities, purchasing habits of spectators, and where and how race fans spend their time when not watching race activities.
“When you see something firsthand, that’s when the ideas come,” Waggoner said. “How can we draw this massive amount of people and the economic impact they bring with it [to our city]?”
Round Rock city spokesman Will Hampton said hotels in the city are booked for race weekend, giving a boost to hotel occupancy tax proceeds for 2012. Hampton said the city is seeking to capitalize on fans staying at the city’s 2,200 hotel rooms.
One way the city hopes to lure fans to explore Round Rock is with a Western swing dance held downtown on the evening of Nov. 15, before the race weekend.
The first year or so is an evaluation period for a major event, Hampton said.
“Obviously there are things going to be going on in downtown Austin,” Hampton said. “Everywhere else, it’s a big unknown what the impact will be.”
Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, said she plans to follow up with Round Rock hotels and study the impact.
“You have to think of the economic benefit that we’re going to gain,” Yawn said. “We’re having ... a large amount of people who’ve never been to our area before. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of them in Round Rock.”
In Hutto, Assistant City Manager Micah Grau said rooms for race weekend are booked solid at the city’s only hotel, Holiday Inn Express. He said hopes remain high that Hutto, situated directly off Toll 130, will benefit from race traffic.
“We’re excited about the guests that are going to be staying here, and we know a lot of our local businesses are trying to find a way to capitalize on the race as well,” Grau said. “We know that the F1 race is going to have a significant impact on Central Texas, and we’re looking to capitalize on that as best we can.”