The following is from AGP Guest Contributor Mike Boone. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter this weekend as he reports from Circuit of The Americas and the Austin Fan Fest.
I am an Austinite, but I returned home via plane on Thursday before the grandest event Austin has ever seen. The Formula 1 race starts today but yesterday I was on a plane with about 100 New Yorkers and from what I could tell most of them were coming to Austin for the same reason: this weekend's Inaugural Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. One might think the busy, non-southern culture that is assumed to consume the Northeast would translate to the people from there as they travel. Not so. Everyone I have spoke to was thrilled about the race and they didn't appear to make any effort to contain their enthusiasm.
It took all my restraint and an innate fear of the flight marshal, to not stand up and ask how many people on the plane were going to the race, what turns they were sitting at and invite them all to my house for a party tonight! The energy was like Christmas Eve for my kids, just no Santa.
Everyone across the 6 seats in front of me, 6 seats behind and 5 beside me were interested and engaged when I shared some of the great things the Circuit of The Americas' team has planned for them. From the concession per person ration of 1 to 80, (which is typically 1 to 200 at other F1 venues) to the hospitality they will be shown if they speak to a “gold shirt” employee at COTA (exclusive gifts for first time F1 fans) the expectations they had when they got on the plane changed as we spoke.
Misperception happens with any event and they certainly exist with this group. Some of my neighboring travelers thought 300,000 people would be at the actual track (it will only be about 120,000) and all were pleasantly surprised to learn about Friday and Saturday's autograph sessions. With each clarified impression I received a smile in return and excitement continued to build on our flight to Austin, Texas!
The impression that there would be 300,000 at the race came from the assumption that there would be no limit on the General Admission sales, which is common at other venues. It was a look of bewilderment up their faces when I told them that the COTA staff purposely limited General Admission sales to a much smaller number than normal to improve the experience for everyone attending. A large Formula One event that puts people before the almighty dollar? Yes, and that’s just another way COTA has gone the extra 3.4 miles to create an experience that will contribute to the Circuit of the Americas being the race of choice for fans across the globe.
I should pass on special thanks from the F1 Fans of New York to the Austin American Statesman staff for publishing the F1 Racing magazine on Wednesday. I had one with me and it was passed amongst many people over several rows. “Can I see that?” was the most common question asked, except for “Would you like coffee or tea…?”