Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6 a.m.
Imagine standing along A1A, chugging some ice-cold brews on a hot fall day and watching a string of Formula One cars race by at 190 mph. The breeze from the beach, the whistling whiz of the engines, the potential for a horrific wreck -- these are the things dreams are made of. And they're the things that draw international attention and legions of tourists to Fort Loddy Doddy.
This week, Andretti Sports Marketing pitched the idea of a Fort Lauderdale Grand Prix to the Broward County Commission. Why didn't the commission rubber-stamp the proposal, break out the street sweepers, and wave the checkered flag in drunken celebration? Because the group is asking for $20 million from the county to help put on the event.
Yup, that's a lot of taxpayer dough going to a race. And while Andretti Sports Marketing has all types of stats on tourism and profit potential to make it seem like a worthwhile investment, the biggest benefit can't be quantified.
Fort Lauderdale lives in the shadow of Miami. Always has, always will. There's the Miami Heat, the Miami Dolphins, and the Miami Marlins. What's Fort Lauderdale got? A boat show. Sorry to break it to you, but there's one of those in Miami too.
Nabbing a major racing event that will garner international media attention is a surefire way to put the spotlight on us for an extended period of time and permanently sear the city's name into the collective psyche of out-of-town gearheads and speed freaks.
It's already happening.
On Wednesday, an Australian paper
covering the potential of a Fort Lauderdale race ran the headline "IndyCar Could Land a New 2013 Race in Florida Described as 'Kinda Like a US Surfers Paradise.'" Sure, it doesn't make too much sense. But what else in this city's history has scored a headline in a far-off paper describing it as "kinda like a surfers paradise." And that's just from a County Commission meeting.
Numerous F1 blogs jumped on the story as well, most of which had positive things to say about the track. Beyond the Flag
noted that the course has a "beautiful backdrop and a number of hotels would fall within the track's footprint." And they're right. Just look at the proposed course:
The good news is that though there's no chance in hell that the county is going to fork over $20 million, commissioners didn't completely shoot down the idea.
After the presentation, the board asked that Andretti Sports Marketing tinker its request, provide a clearer explanation of the potential return on investment, and show that the event will really help fill more than 22,000 hotel rooms.
If the race gets the green light, it won't be long before Fort Lauderdale is a sun-baked mecca of speed and precision.