The marriage between Las Vegas and Formula 1 has gotten off to a rocky start but will be worth the effort in the long run

The marriage between Las Vegas and Formula 1 has gotten off to a rocky start but will be worth the effort in the long run

Formula 1 Bridge and Paddock

Wade Vandervoort

Cars wait in traffic near the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix grandstands on South Koval Lane Monday, October 30, 2023.

Our family car turned right onto Koval Lane from Harmon Avenue and began driving north.

A private pizza tour at Ellis Island turned out to be a surprise: We were walking through the heart of the almost complete Las Vegas Grand Prix track. Too bad Subaru couldn’t go faster.

Grandstands for next Formula 1 weekend and other racing infrastructure are mostly in place, officials said Tuesday. You can easily picture the crowded grandstands, the bright lights illuminating the track and the single-seater, open-wheel cars buzzing down the resort’s driveway at speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour.

The start and finish lines for the event, which will be held from November 16-18, are located at Koval at the Formula 1 headquarters.

Christina Ellis, Ellis Island’s vice president of development, drives this part of Koval every day on her way to work at the locals casino. Ellis has seen the focus on race vision over the months and made a fascinating comparison: It’s comparable to standing at the 50-yard line at Allegiant Stadium in the final stages of construction for an NFL stadium that opened in 2020.

“I feel like I’m on a racetrack when I go to work in the morning,” she said. “It’s slowly coming together. You can see how Koval has transformed.

No doubt about it, the transformation is striking. But, unfortunately, it came with so many headaches and inconvenience for locals that many wished the race had not been established here within the next ten years.

We were tired of sitting in traffic on our commute to the Strip for work or socializing due to the constant work on the roads that the racetrack would occupy. Some of us reported that they were stuck in the parking garage due to congestion.

The bus route that many hospitality workers take to Las Vegas Boulevard was changed or canceled due to race-related construction, forcing workers — the backbone of our tourism workforce — to change their commute or walk. Some days, there is an unexpected delay in adding hours home after a long day of work at one of the Strip resorts.

Preparation for the course also included tearing down those beautiful, sophisticated trees in front of the Bellagio fountains to get prime seating to watch the race. We didn’t realize how much we loved those trees until they were destroyed.

Tourism officials said they suspect some hiccups have occurred in preparing the Strip and surrounding side streets for the 3.8-mile trail. But they admit they did not expect the unrest to be so serious.

We also didn’t expect Formula 1 to be so inconvenient.

Last July, Formula 1 threatened to block the view of places overlooking the Grand Prix race track in Las Vegas unless those places paid licensing fees. When the demands began to spread, the racing federation did not intervene to deny the ridiculous claims or provide clarification.

By not speaking up, they have gained distrust in our community — a community that has a long history of rolling out red carpets for organizers coming to town to host an event. Remember, no one does it better than Vegas when throwing a party.

Race officials in the spring also requested $40 million in general funds from Clark County to help cover the costs of infrastructure work, which a race representative told the commission could reach $80 million. They never received public money.

And last weekend, three-time world champion Max Verstappen certainly sounded like someone who didn’t want to compete here when he said: “First of all, I think we’re here more for the show than the race itself if you look at the layout on the track,” according to our website.” “But you know, I’m actually not interested in that. I’m like, ‘I’ll just go out there and do my thing and leave again.’

Yes, it’s safe to say that the marriage between Southern Nevada and racing didn’t start out well. But it’s an important marriage that will take work and patience for both Las Vegas and Formula 1. They need each other for racing to succeed.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix will be the first race the league has contested on Saturday in more than 40 years. Formula One is looking to make a splash in the American market by showcasing cars under the bright lights of the sector.

Liberty Media, Formula 1’s parent company, is investing $500 million to set up shop here, including a 300,000-square-foot dressage facility in Koval that will serve as the group’s full-time headquarters in Las Vegas.

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei told investors in the spring that “once the event is held in Vegas, there will be a whole new recognition for Formula 1 in the United States, which remains our most important sponsorship market.”

The 50-lap race is expected to bring 170,000 people to Las Vegas, bringing with them an economic impact of $1.5 billion, officials said. While these estimates may be inflated — some hotel rates, airline ticket prices, and race ticket prices have dropped as the event approaches — there is still significant money flowing into the city.

Taxes collected from the three-day weekend were estimated at $87.5 million — of which $25 million would go to K-12 education, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill said last month. “Whether they realize it or not, everyone in the state will reap the benefits,” he said.

These benefits are most pronounced for venues on the racetrack, including small properties like Ellis Island. It is a partner in the racing venue, providing 1,000 stadium seats to create an amphitheater display in an area dubbed “Turn 4” because the property is located near Turn 4 of the stadium. Three-day grandstand tickets, including food and non-alcoholic beverages, cost $1,500.

Echoing what tourism leaders are saying, Ellis said getting everything up and running was an invaluable experience for the years to come. She confirms that the excitement is unparalleled.

“We are fortunate to have a property right within sight,” she said. “You can see the infrastructure being built and everything being put together. You really get the full scope of what’s going on. It’s very exciting.”

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