Las Vegas has been chosen as the next host of the Formula One (F1) World Championship, and the developmental process has been a hot topic. Representatives from the Las Vegas Grand Prix (LVGP), the F1 subsidiary helming the project, have been debating the details with the Clark County Board of Commissioners over the past year. Road closures, contract extensions, and a $40 million expense to the county are just a few of the topics being discussed. But the long term is always in the background.
“I think it’s important to note that we have a three-year contract with Formula One, but we anticipate a lifetime in partnership,” Clark County Commissioner Chair James Gibson said on Feb. 8. “This will open the pathway to be able to do it for at least 10 years.”
(All quotes attributed to Clark County Commissioners and LVGP in this article are taken from Board of Commissioners meetings that took place on Feb. 8, June 6, and Sept. 5.)
The races will be held from Nov. 16 to Nov. 18 on a circuit that will begin at the Virgin Hotel, go past the Sphere and onto the Strip, before returning back to the Virgin Hotel. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the official governing body for Southern Nevada’s marketing, has already approved a three-year deal with F1, with serious talks underway to extend the deal to 10 years.
On June 6, LVGP estimated the cost of the necessary road development at $80 million, requesting that Clark County contribute half towards the expenses. Commissioner William McCurdy asked the representatives why improvements had already begun before the compensation was discussed with Clark County officials.
LVGP representative Stephanie Allen countered, “From our perspective, there is no obligation. We’re making a request today because there’s a significant public purpose related to the improvements to Clark County’s roads that you all will own after those improvements.” And though Clark County is not obligated to reimburse F1 for the road renovations, the Board voted 4-3 to approve a public-private partnership to leave future negotiations about compensation open while improving collaboration between the two parties.
During the meeting, Gibson said that leaving negotiations open could allow citizens a better chance to see the benefits that F1’s improvements bring. “I get that there’s some expectations. Well, expectations are met sometimes, and sometimes they’re not,” Gibson said.
Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick felt “pretty bitter” about the way LVGP representatives treated Clark County legislative staff. At the June 6 meeting, she said, “We’re coming to the table and $40 million, what’s $40 million? I’ll tell you what, in our capital budget, that’s a lot. That’s somebody’s park. That’s somebody’s recreation center. That’s some building that has duct tape on the carpet, because we haven’t made it a priority.”
On Sept. 5, LVGP provided an update on the event preparations. LVGP representative and project manager Terry Miller reported to the Board that “over 90%” of the road paving has been completed.
Road installations will conclude with three temporary vehicular bridges, projected to be built between Sept. 22 and Nov. 3. The bridges are an effort to improve transportation over the weekend while also allowing pedestrian traffic over the circuit during the races. Two of these bridges will be on Harmon Avenue, and one will be on Flamingo Road.
LVGP explained the road closures in more detail at the Sept. 5 meeting. The circuit will require complete road closures on Sands Avenue, Flamingo Road, and Harmon Avenue between Las Vegas Boulevard and Paradise Road for the duration of the weekend, along with temporary closures on Las Vegas Boulevard during the races.
The closures will directly block entrance to buildings on the Strip between Harmon Avenue and Sands Avenue — including all the hotels from Planet Hollywood up to Palazzo.
Kirkpatrick voiced her concerns during the meeting. “We need to get our employees [on the Strip] to and from on race days… Employees cannot walk 2 miles, work for 8 hours on their feet, and then walk 2 miles to get to their cars.”
During their Sept. 5 presentation, LVGP detailed their community outreach efforts. Last month, they started a food insecurity campaign and raised over $743,000 for nonprofit organizations serving the valley. This money was then donated to Three Square, The Just One Project, Project 150, and Green Our Planet.
LVGP has slated $1 billion in revenue for Clark County, though it’s unclear how exactly that number was determined. During the Sept. 5 Board of Commissioners meeting, LVGP reported over 105,000 tickets have been purchased, though how that exactly contributed to Clark County’s revenue was not fully explained.
At an LVCVA meeting on March 14, they approved the purchase of $7 million worth of tickets to the 2023 F1 World Championship. LVCVA President Steve Hill explained that the purchase would be “partly for the LVCVA’s use, and partly to effectuate purchases from Las Vegas hotel partners.”
Whether or not Clark County’s $7 million purchase was counted towards the $1 billion revenue figure LVGP claimed has been left ambiguous.
Local reception to the F1 races has been good and bad. “I’m excited to have F1 back in town. I think it could really spark some local interest in motorsports,” said local Kyeu Lanza. “Especially since we’ve been getting basketball teams, baseball teams, and football teams. Why stop there?”
But not everybody shares this enthusiasm. In response to F1’s request for $40 million, Las Vegas news account VitalVegas posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Breaking: Nevada is changing its state motto to ‘The Bend Over State.’”
Director of Urban Futures Lab and UNLV professor Dr. Steffen Lehmann protested against the development with climate concerns. Lehmann wrote in a LinkedIn post:
“This is completely inappropriate and makes no sense, destroying half of the Strip for a 3-day event, driven by excessive greed. Shame on Formula One Management and MGM for making bad deals for the city and its citizens, behind closed doors!”
Controversy aside, the F1 races are guaranteed to take place in Las Vegas until 2025. Only time will tell how the projected revenues, expenses and climate implications will affect Clark County.