Hard Rock inks F1 deal despite outcry


Formula 1 in Miami - Hard Rock Stadium Image: Hard Rock Stadium

Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens at Florida in US has given thumbs-up to an agreement to host Formula One Grand Prix in May 2021 at the Hard Rock Stadium.

“We look forward to bringing the greatest racing spectacle on the planet for the first time to one of the world’s most iconic and glamorous regions,” Hard Rock Stadium Vice-Chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel and F1 Managing Director of Commercial Operations Sean Bratches said in a joint statement.

They further stated in the joint statement, “We are thrilled to announce that Formula One and Hard Rock Stadium have reached an agreement in principle to host the first-ever Formula One Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium. With an estimated annual impact of more than $400 million and 35,000 room nights, the Formula One Miami Grand Prix will be an economic juggernaut for South Florida each and every year.”

“We are deeply grateful to our fans, elected officials and the local tourism industry for their patience and support throughout this process,” Garfinkel added.

However, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners will have to green light the agreement. Talks are on with F-1 and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Major part of the Grand Prix course would be sited near the Hard Rock Stadium but not exactly inside the stadium. A section of the course would run outside of the stadium grounds onto N.W.199th Street and N.W. 203rd Street.

Since its inaugural season in 1950, F1 is one of the world’s most popular sporting events and reportedly enjoys audience of 1.8 billion viewers globally. F1 has made several attempts since 2018 to establish a race in Miami but in vain. It has hit several speed bumps in bringing the highest class of single-seat auto racing to South Florida.

The original scheme of things for the F1 organizers was to host the Grand Prix in downtown Miami. However, this move met stiff opposition from the residents. Residents rejected the initial course, which would have looped around the American Airlines Arena, and local businesses too voiced opposition to potential street closures.

A demonstration was organized by Miami Garden residents to resist a potential F1 race which was supposed to be held on October 13. The protestors argued that holding a race at Hard Rock Stadium would lead to traffic snarls, air pollution and noise pollution. They also feared that local wildlife in the Miami Gardens area would be at peril.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district includes Hard Rock Stadium, and Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert are dead against the idea of holding the event in the facility.

Jordan proposed legislation to require a commission vote before Formula One could win county approval for the temporary closure of part of Northwest 199th Street during race weekend. A decision on the legislation is expected this month.

However, Garfinkel and Bratches argue that the F1 Miami Grand Prix will bring economic boom to the area – an estimated $400 million economic impact on South Florida which will lead to an additional 35,000 hotel room rentals.

Organizers also contend that the race will be held within the stadium property and not closer to homes. It will also be of short duration, with races lasting only two to three hours one weekend per year. The race will also showcase Miami Gardens and the South Florida region to the world.

“Hosting the race at the stadium site limits the work that has to be done to public streets, which means very little disruption to surrounding residents and businesses as we prepare for the race,” Bratches maintain.

Tourism and hospitality industry leaders are swearing by the F1 racing event as these industries, otherwise, witness a slowdown following the peak winter months. They are also thrilled about the prospect of joining an elite list of F-1 host cities, which include Monaco, Singapore, and Barcelona.

“We support, and love, and are very excited about the prospect of Formula One coming,” said Wendy Kallergis, President and CEO of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.

He exults, “I can tell you all of our hotels across Miami-Dade County, our employees, and our General Managers are very excited about it.”

Kallergis rooted for F-1 coming to South Florida on behalf of the hotel industry at a recent county commission meeting.

When the original plan of holding the sporting extravaganza in downtown Miami did not materialize, organizers turned their attention to Hard Rock Stadium and its surrounding grounds, all of which are owned by Stephen Ross.

Ross would pick up the tab for all race costs, which includes an expected $40 million custom track that would run predominantly on the Hard Rock Stadium grounds.

If this happens, it will establish Formula One race to qualify for a marquee-event grant per a 2014 agreement with the county.

Boasting a huge Latin American audience, F1 only hosts four races in the Western hemisphere – Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Austin, Texas, which is the only race in the US.

As per Austin’s Circuit of America’s website, during events hosted at the track which opened in 2012, tourists spent $423 million at Austin-area businesses.

It is now to be seen whether the locals and the officials who represent them buy this idea of F1 organizers.

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