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Long Beach would require $9m in upgrades to host F1

Mar 23, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Getty Images

Long Beach Grand Prix promoter Chris Pook has estimated that it will cost $9.2m to upgrade the circuit if it is to host Formula 1 in the next few years, as he continues his crusade to bring the sport back to California.

Following the success of the revived United States Grand Prix at the newly-built Circuit of the Americas, plans have been made for a second race to be held at Port Imperial in New Jersey. However, with the project now twice postponed, other options in North America are being considered, and Pook is keen on bringing Formula 1 back to Long Beach.

“We just want the opportunity to state our case, to be considered,” he explained to the Orange County Register. “We just want them to take a look at what we bring to the table. That’s all we’re asking.”

Formula 1 last graced Long Beach back in 1983, and the race has since made up part of the IndyCar schedule. In order to host F1 again, though, some upgrades will be required such as extending the circuit in places. However, Pook says that original estimates are way off the mark, with the price being closer to $9m to complete the work.

“People have been saying it would cost $100 million,” he said. “That number has just stuck in people’s minds. It’s not even close to that.

“The net tax gain for Austin in 2013 was $4.9 million, and the net gain for Texas was $17.2 million. The value of F1 is that it provides new money. F1 racing draws a worldwide audience. You would be tapping into new consumers.

“F1 wants to be in Southern California by 2016,” Pook added. “I’m conflicted, because I want to see it here. It’s where we started and it’s a big piece of history.”

Quite whether Formula 1’s possible return to Long Beach comes to fruition remains to be seen, but Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that he had approached the city when the tender for the race was opened up.

If an agreement is reached, then it could be a more viable option than the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey, but should the latter also kick into gear and finally go ahead, we may have three races in the United States on the F1 calendar by 2016.

  1. testover6370 - Mar 23, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Long Beach need only look at New Jersey to see how this would go. $9 million wouldn’t even cover the permanent garages. If they commit, Bernie would just keep bumping up the requirements, claim they breached contract, and waltz on over to some Russian-funded second world country. This is just a ploy to drive up prices for other races and Bernie would abandon Long Beach as soon as his purposes were achieved.

  2. mcseforsale - Mar 23, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    I agree @testover6370….but they should pursue it none the less. Long Beach could be an epic road circuit if Bernie is out of the way. I would create iron-clad contracts based around the lessons learned with Road Atlanta and NJ and let it fly. I would however, wait until Bernie is out of the picture. He’s becoming a blight on the series with his nonsense.

    • crunge4461 - Mar 23, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      “Long Beach could be an epic road circuit..”? Uh, Long Beach is an epic circuit. I am a big open wheel fan, I like F1, but IndyCar is my favorite series and right now has the best racing going. Frankly, I don’t really get the logic here, I mean anyone that looks at F1 events they are so expensive that they lose money as an almost general rule. When Bernie is not at the helm anymore nothing will change, why should we expect that Bernie will go and suddenly F1 will be cheaper and want to look in races like this for the long term? I don’t know, I just don’t see that happening. IndyCar puts on a better race then F1, is loyal to the event, and is a way better bargain. I really really hope this does not happen.

  3. Matthew - Mar 23, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    Reblogged this on Carolina Mountain Blue and commented:
    F1 vs. IndyCar? Sorry, but if Long Beach were to fall off the IndyCar calendar, it would mark the beginning of the end for the series.

    • crunge4461 - Mar 23, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      I have to disagree strongly with that comment. Are you kidding me? The Indy 500. The Indy 500 is the grand-daddy, that is the race, the life-blood of the series, the series is not made or broken on a temporary street race. Granted Long Beach is the best street race in IndyCar and the most classic, of course, but if a single race is the key to the series it is the Indy 500, a loss of Long Beach would not be good, but it would not hurt the IndyCar series that much, not to the degree that it would be the beginning of the end.

      On a side note, I am personally very sick of “the beginning of the end comments”, those comments are so worn out and really baseless, the only case in which the loss of a race could mean the beginning of the end would be if it were Indy, that is the only time that I would grant such a comment any credence.

  4. Luke Smith - Mar 23, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    Thanks for your comments guys. Very interesting to hear your thoughts.

    The way the F1 calendar is going at the moment, pretty much any race is in with a shout. In the past year or so, we’ve had… *takes deep breath* Argentina, South Africa, New Jersey, Mexico, France, Thailand, Long Beach, Rio de Janeiro and Azerbaijan (that’s my personal favorite in terms of being ‘out there’) all be put forward for a GP in some way. Add in India, Korea and Turkey (all of which have fallen by the wayside in the past three years), plus the 19 races that actually made the 2014 calendar…

    That’s 31 races, and I’ve probably missed something. It’s all ‘talk’. The rule of thumb is that if they have the money, F1 will go there. I attended a talk with the chief of the Bahrain GP circuit back in January. He was asked about dwindling attendance figures, and he said “we don’t need them.” The money continues to flow…

    What sets the likes of Long Beach and New Jersey apart is that there is a real desire from the powers that be in Formula 1 to take the sport there. Bernie Ecclestone has dreamed for years of a race in the NJ/NY area. As much as the doubt ensues about the race, I’m certain it will happen one day – it might be ten years from now, but it will happen.

    Long Beach is a bit different in the sense that, yes, it might decide that it wants to stay away from F1. It could be a highly lucrative move to welcome F1, but as you say, once a track with bigger bucks comes along, that’ll be that.

    Let’s see, though. Pook seems to be quite pragmatic about it. He’ll fight for the race, but if it’s a lost cause, he won’t dwell on it.

    • testover6370 - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      Thanks for your insights Luke. That’s a great summary of the situation.

      F1 definitely makes sense in Southern California, but I would hate to see it come at the expense of another great race. I hope F1 can find another venue, especially a custom built road course.

      Forgetting about the actual racing aspects of Indycar vs F1 for the moment, as a fan who has reserved seats at the hairpin and renews early every year, I worry about this possible change. Right now my 3 day tickets for some very good seats is $125 a seat. Not a bad deal for 3 days in the grand scheme of sporting events. The concessions are pricey, but the quantity and variety of options is good. There is pretty constant on-track action and a packed schedule of support series. The paddocks of the support series are free and open, and Indycar paddock access is reasonably priced. Indycar Driver autograph session is open to all ticket holders. The facilities are temporary aside from the stuff in the convention center, but the party atmosphere is great and the crowds pack in. It is well run. I get my renewal notice like clockwork, I receive my tickets like clockwork, lines to get in seem to run very smoothly and quickly, and the track is well prepared. I fear a lot of that would change with F1. I’m sure ticket prices would increase, the support series would change, and access for the common person would be severely restricted. F1 drivers don’t meet the common fan.

      As far as running the event, it goes so well because they have been doing it for years and have a successful process worked out. Changing promoters would disrupt that. Sure new promoters could get back in the swing of things eventually, but I see a lot of danger in messing with something that works so well as-is.

  5. techmeister1 - Mar 23, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    If someone is going to via for another U.S. F1 race – which I don’t think is likely, I’d like it to be Watkin’s Glen – the real GP track of old. It won’t happen of course because it’s too remote for the jet-set crowd but it’s a Helleva race track and most drivers love it.

    • crunge4461 - Mar 23, 2014 at 11:52 PM

      Totally agree, but the reason they won’t race at the Glen is not because of remoteness, that is the NYC market, there are tons of people in a few hour drive to the glen. The reason they won’t race there is because F1 is hyper safety-sensitive and they are afraid of the walls up the esses etc. This hyper safety-sensitivity when it comes to tracks is to the great detriment of F1 and is the primary reason that all the new tracks are so boring. You’d think that since everyone’s favorite is Spa, which is fast, dangerous, undulating, etc. that F1 would want to race classic natural terrain courses like that, but instead they insist on building billion dollar car parks instead. Racing is supposed to be on the edge, there must be a tinge of real danger at all times, unfortunately that is totally non-existent at Abu Dhabi etc.

    • worknman24hours - Mar 24, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      I don’t think they have the money to make the race doable again in current F1 terms.

      Frankly, with the more-this more-that hanky panky F1 comes up with, I’d just laugh and say “No Thanks”.

      Frankly, I think Azerbaijan has more chance of hosting a F1 race then new jersey will.

      The Grand Prix of new jersey?

      I can already see someone trying to get the cars to go over a bridge touching New York so they can call it he Grand prix of New York.

      Or maybe they’d just lie about where the race is run-it’s been done before.

      I will never forget the facial expressions of Sebastian Vettel as he did his drive around the proposed course and then parked and lied through his teeth at the interview at how great the proposed course was.

      Dude, your face did not lie.

      “F1 in this dump? ” was all it kept saying as you drove incredulously through the course.

      • crunge4461 - Mar 24, 2014 at 3:39 AM

        New York Jets and Giants. They would call it the Grand Prix of New York. Is that a lie, no, because the reason they are there is for the market created by New York City. I really do not see that one happening though either.

      • indycarseries500 - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        If it ever happens it’ll be called the GP of America.

  6. irishrugby990 - Mar 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Pook needs to listen to the fans before he does anything sans thought. This is one of the most popular, fan-favourite races on the IndyCar circuit, and has been for years. Sure, GPLB started as an F1 race, but it has been a sustainable, strong part of the CART/IndyCar calendar for 30-some years. Besides, I thought Kevin Kalkhoven had an ownership stake in the race? As long as he’s an IndyCar owner, there is no way he’d let the race get into Bernie’s grimy hands. I could see maybe F1 doing a race there late in the summer, but there should be no way that the Indycar grand prix gets axed completely if the organizers know what’s good for them.

    • indycarseries500 - Mar 24, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      Kalkhoven/Gerry Forsythe are a part of the group that currently holds the contract with the city to host the GPLB, the city is deciding whether to re-sign the current holders or put the contract up for bid.

  7. f1fan1 - Mar 24, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    I would be back in a heartbeat if the LBGP became an F1 event again. The event has declined steadily and significant[y since CART died. It deserves better than the current iteration of IRL mindycarz.

  8. manik56 - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:33 PM

    Why would Long Beach want to ruin a good thing?

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