21 March 2014
Pook still pushing for Long Beach F1 return
A second race in America remains a priority for F1, but it could be a familiar venue that hosts the event rather than New Jersey.
F1's search for a second home in the United States could yet lead it back to a previous abode, following the sport's decision to offer an expression of interest in acquiring the lease to the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Chris Pook, who oversaw the birth of the event as a round of the F1 world championship in 1976, has made no secret of the series' interest in returning to southern California as it looks for another US-based event to support the successful grand prix in Austin, which moves into its third year in 2014. With the proposed event in New York/New Jersey looking increasingly likely to be stillborn, despite Pook being drafted onto the organising committee last year, Long Beach offers a ready-made alternative - provided the resident IndyCar Series can be usurped.
According to the local OC Register, F1 head man Bernie Ecclestone wrote to city mayor Bob Foster last year to relay his interest in returning to Long Beach. With the lease for the event expiring after next season's Grand Prix, the council had been due to vote on the future direction of event, but eventually postponed a decision.
“I want to reiterate this is just to make an offer just so [the city] can see the alternative,” Pook said two weeks ago, “If they like it, fine. If they don't, we'll move on.”
With no reason to 'move on' just yet, the veteran promoter has been doing the rounds to garner support for F1's return – a move he claims would add even more to the local economy than currently provided by the IndyCar Series.
“We just want the opportunity to state our case, to be considered,” Pook told a meeting of the Long Beach Century Club this week, “We just want them to take a look at what we bring to the table. That's all we're asking.”
Repeating his quest in an interview with the local media, Pook explained that some of the figures being bandied about by opponents to F1's return were wide of the mark. While he admits that the current circuit layout would need extending to meet F1 requirements, the cost – which would be met by the promoter – is a lot less than suggested.
“People have been saying it would cost $100m and that number has just stuck in people's minds,” Pook noted, “It's not even close to that.”
Quoting a $9.2m cost for the renovations, and revealing that a two-storey building would need to be erected on the main 'straight' of Shoreline Drive to house F1 operations and luxury hospitality suites, Pook also intimated that the promoters would not charge Long beach to stage the race – a $25m fee had been mentioned - and would reimburse all expenses. Meanwhile, the benefits of switching from the largely domestic IndyCar Series to the globally-recognised F1 circus would be huge.
“The net tax gain for Austin in 2013 was $4.9m, and the net gain for Texas was $17.2m,” he claimed, “The value of F1 is that it provides new money. F1 racing draws a worldwide audience. You would be tapping into new consumers.”
An earlier explanation of the potential economic impact of an F1 race on Long Beach suggested a $100m windfall for the region, along with an estimated $190m worth of global television exposure.
There is no mention of the long-term future on the official LBGP website, which is focused on the 40th annual running of the event over the weekend of 11-13 April.
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