“The stakes have never been higher.” Coming from the world capital of gambling, it makes quite an impression. Moreover, it is justified. Las Vegas is getting ready for an event described by the organizers as the most expensive project of all time for a sports attraction. Over 560 million dollars have been invested to set up, in record time of just a few months, the first Formula 1 Grand Prix, which will take place from November 16th to 18th on a completely new city circuit, running from the famous Strip to the futuristic MSG Sphere adjacent to the Venetian Resort.
The city is riding a magical moment in terms of construction and new infrastructure, with projects totaling over 8 billion dollars, including not only Formula 1 but also new hotels with almost five thousand additional rooms, convention centers, more glittering casinos, roads, overpasses, and community service facilities. All with estimates of virtually immediate returns on investment.
The racing cars along the Strip
The race organizers, whose official name is “Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023,” are already celebrating the closure of million-dollar sponsorship contracts and the fact that it is now “sold out,” despite the fact that the stands and tribunes along the circuit are not yet completed. On the official website, which emphasizes the high stakes, there are very few seats available in positions far back from the race, with prices of over two thousand dollars for the three days of the sporting event.
The magnitude of this event is such that it imposes a historic change on the city, considered one of the American metropolises with the worst city traffic. Traveling along the Strip and adjacent roads means spending hours in traffic, partly because the dazzling lights and spectacular effects on every corner cause slowdowns due to the thousands of motorists visiting the city at the pace of snapshots, almost hypnotized by the neon signs. During the three race days, however, Las Vegas will be closed to traffic to allow the single-seater cars to zoom along the Strip and next to the magical Sphere at speeds of up to 212 mph (342 km/h) on a 3.8-mile (6.12 km) circuit with three straights and 17 corners.
The construction, which includes new pavement for the entire circuit, the construction of the paddock, stands, and temporary structures, represents a race against time. “It’s the most challenging thing this city has ever done from the standpoint of an event, and that’s because we have to create the venue while we’re also organizing the event,” admitted Steve Hill, CEO and President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, to ABC13 television station.
A Grand Prix for Sustainability, Starting with Water
In addition to expanding its influence on the American audience, Formula 1, for the first time at the beginning of the year, launched a sustainability program with the goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. According to this program, for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, in collaboration with the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a water conservation plan has been launched. A first of its kind, the plan aims to implement technologies capable of reducing, and potentially offsetting, external water consumption during large-scale sporting events.
The initiative will be tested during the race using an atmospheric water generator to capture humidity and convert it into drinking water. Water is a central issue for Las Vegas, a metropolis that has been grappling with constant water crises for years. To quench the city’s thirst and ensure its water supply, the Southern Nevada Water Authority entrusted the Webuild Group with the “Intake 3” project, an innovative infrastructure built in Lake Mead to collect water from the largest artificial reservoir in the United States even during droughts. Thanks to this infrastructure, despite repeated droughts, Las Vegas residents can rely on a constant supply of drinking water.
An Impact of Over a Billion on the City's Economy
In addition to the innovative theme of sustainability, the Las Vegas Grand Prix is an accelerator of investments in the city in terms of infrastructure and construction. Many hotels along the circuit are building or have already built, alongside new water features, large stands, kiosks, and restaurants. The work is expected to continue until the night before the event, then everything must be ready. Immediately after the race, most of the new structures will be dismantled and reinstalled in 2024. By law, the city will not remain, like some European circuits, with the painted racing stripes, signage, or advertising on the trackside.
“Our board has certified that Formula 1 will have an economic impact of over a quarter of a billion. But it will be well beyond that. It will be over a billion dollars, and this will allow Formula 1 to approach the county commission to allow for road painting and advertising,” added Hill.
After decades of futile attempts to penetrate the American racing market, Formula 1 is now booming in the United States, with three Grand Prix events out of 23 on the schedule, more than any other country. After the one held in May in Miami, the first American city to transform its streets, albeit with an external downtown map, and the one from October 20th to 22nd at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, called the Lenovo United States Grand Prix, the U.S. Formula One season will conclude in Las Vegas.
From the perspective of the driver’s championship, the Sin City race will not change the victory already secured by Dutchman Max Verstappen with Red Bull Racing Honda, securing his third consecutive title, but in the USA, the excitement for these events, especially the one in Las Vegas, has reached unthinkable levels, thanks to the change in ownership of Formula 1, with the acquisition of rights by Liberty Media Corp. in 2017.
The Las Vegas race, unlike all the others of the season, will take place in the evening, adding the magic of lights and the splendor of the city to the sporting spectacle. “This is one of the most aggressive construction and design programs I’ve ever seen, certainly in Las Vegas, as well as in sports,” said Terry Miller, project manager of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, to the Hollywood Reporter newspaper.