Comptroller says F1 race well-executed, tax revenue figures months away


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on November 20, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 20 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- With the roar of the race now in the rear-view mirror, attention now turns to analyzing how it went.

"This could not have come off any better," Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs told KVUE Tuesday. "The mood was fantastic. The track looked incredible. The fans were very happy, and what I heard over and over was that the welcome from Austin was like no other city."

One of the earliest proponents of bringing the Formula 1 race to Austin, Combs attended the weekend race along with family and friends. Enjoying the race while at the same time evaluating its execution, the comptroller said one of her greatest concerns initially was traffic.

"I was paying a lot of attention to the traffic on [FM] 812. They did a great job with contraflow," said Combs. "The car, bus traffic was handled extremely well. The police were great, the volunteers were great. We worried of course about access. It went very, very smoothly."

After an economic impact study commissioned by the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee (CELOC) predicted the event would rake in $26.6 million in tax revenues, Circuit of the Americas now awaits a $25 million agreed reimbursement from the state's Major Events Trust Fund.

Combs says her office will soon begin compiling the actual tax receipts, but that process will take several months as data from different offices and revenue streams with different reporting timetables slowly becomes available.

"Those numbers will be out in a couple of months," explained Combs. "We have, I think by statute, 18 months. We won't of course take that long, but want to be sure we get all the data correct and that it is accurate."

While the total numbers will take awhile to tabulate, many businesses downtown are saying at least for them, the weekend was a success.

"I've never seen so many people spend as much money as they did," said Sal Olivas, general manager of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on 6th Street in downtown Austin. Olivas told KVUE Tuesday the weekend's crowd was the biggest in the 10 years he's worked there, and his staff are already benefiting.

"Put it this way, they probably just made their Christmas money working here this weekend," said Olivas. "My vendors are making money, people are buying from them, and then they're making their commissions, and it's all one, big back scratch."

According to COTA, 60 percent of tickets were sold to people from outside Texas, and of those, 15 percent were international visitors with Mexico and Great Britain making up the largest contingents.

"What the British ambassador in particular pointed out was that this does truly place Austin on the global map," said Combs.

With more races lining up between now and the next official Formula 1 event in 2013, many who profited this weekend hope they'll soon come racing back.