F1 apologises to Las Vegas for disruption caused by new night race
Greg Maffei has issued an apology for the disruption brought to the city after workers expressed disquiet over the impact on infrastructure
The CEO of Formula One’s owners Liberty Media, Greg Maffei, has issued an apology for the disruption brought to Las Vegas, after workers expressed disquiet over the impact the sport has had on infrastructure.
Las Vegas will host its first F1 race for over 40 years on Saturday and for the first time it will run down the Strip in the centre of the city. Work on the project has been ongoing for over nine months and has included resurfacing of the roads that will make up the track, and building of an extensive and permanent pit and paddock complex.
The process has been far from painless and is on-going. Traffic on the Strip – Las Vegas Boulevard – has already been reduced to a torturously slow crawl, while pedestrians are being funnelled along narrowed and curtailed walkways because of the limitations partly imposed by the manufacture of the track. When the cars take to the circuit, access to many areas, particularly hotels on the Strip alongside the circuit, will be limited.
F1 and city authorities have put extensive plans in place to try and minimise disruption but Maffei acknowledged the problematic issues that came with staging the event.
“I want to apologise to all the Las Vegas residents and we appreciate that they have their forbearance and their willingness to tolerate us,” he said. “We’re going to bring something like $1.7bn of revenue to the area. So it’s not just for the benefit of fans who want to view. We hope this is a great economic benefit in Las Vegas. We hope this is the most difficult year with all the construction that went on and things will be easier in the future.”
Early November is traditionally a quieter time for Las Vegas but the city is demonstrably filling up with race fans. Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes tops are increasingly apparent on the tables and slots of the casinos but the additional visitors – 105,000 are expected to attend the race alone – all have to be catered for.
Of particular concern is the ability to access workplaces. The city has a plan in place for Thursday, Friday and Saturday when the track is live that includes the provision by resorts of remote employee parking and transportation to Strip hotels, and a more extensive use of the Las Vegas monorail.
However resort workers remain unconvinced. Two expressed grave doubts to the Guardian that the system would work, but declined to be named. One employee of the Venetian told Fox 5 Vegas he feared a 20-minute commute would be extended to two hours.
Local resident Ian Rineer, who has lived and worked in Las Vegas for 20 years, said the city had yet to be convinced by F1.
“We are apprehensive. We love big events, we love money coming to town but with F1 we don’t know what type of value we are going to see yet,” he said. “Because it is the first year and the hurdles we have had to jump through without knowing what is going to happen has everybody on edge.”
Rineer, a Grand Canyon tour guide and a resident of the downtown district of Fremont East, also acknowledged that placing all the blame with F1 was far from fair. He pointed out that the traffic around Allegiant Stadium, which will host the Super Bowl in 2024, is also poor as the city adapts to having a major venue at its heart.
“We are growing up as a city,” he said. “Before coronavirus we didn’t have a big stadium, now we have Allegiant Stadium [home of the Las Vegas Raiders] so we are big league. Las Vegas is growing up as a city but there are growing pains.”
F1 has yet to confirm whether the race has sold out, with Maffei also having to address considerable public criticism of the price of some tickets, citing high demand and hotels charging five night minimums as pushing up costs. The cheapest grandstand seat was $1,500 with Strip venue packages starting at approximately $5,000 and rising to as much as a $5m package at Caesars Palace.
However the sport will likely judge success in Las Vegas more on the impact the race has in raising its profile in the US and globally rather than ticket sales. But in the city itself, when F1 departs a straightforward metric will be measured by its citizens.
“We are a very basic town, it’s money in our pockets” said Rineer. “Will it put money in our pockets as a server, as a bartender, that’s how we will measure it. A lot of us are cash-based and tip-based, that’s how we survive.”
He remains hopeful nonetheless that the sport will earn its place in the hearts of his fellow citizens of the Las Vegas Valley. “I like F1, I watched Drive to Survive, I want to meet baby Lando and I am a McLaren fan. So my hope is after the headaches of the first year we iron everything out and it’s smoother and smoother. F1 is the biggest racing event in the world and we should be able to pull this off.”