For local residents who were hoping the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix would go away and never come back — I know you’re out there because you’ve written me emails and called me about it — I have some disappointing news.
Fans in town for the race, Formula One organizers and local resort companies loved it, and tickets for the 2024 edition of the race have already gone on sale.
Resort executives interviewed the day after the race were ecstatic with the early returns of how everything came together. Fans interviewed as they made their way to Harry Reid International Airport were enthused about what a good time they had.
The front-line resort employees who might have been inconvenienced the most by the monthslong traffic hassles they endured going to work every day were professional and came through as the best-in-class hosts that they are — even though the F1 crowd didn’t tip them.
Even one of the race’s biggest critics, Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023 winner Max Verstappen, was singing “Viva Las Vegas” when he crossed the finish line.
I watched the race on television from the comfort of my living room and must say the visuals from the pre-race events and from the circuit itself during the event were absolutely breathtaking. Never has Las Vegas shone so brightly on an international stage.
Was it worth it?
The debate now turns to was it worth it and should Las Vegas continue to host it.
Before the race, I asked Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill if there was a way to shut F1 down for 2024 and beyond.
“Certainly by mutual agreement,” he responded. “If it doesn’t work for them and it didn’t work for us, the possibility exists. It’s not really something we’ve had a conversation about because we know already that’s not going to be the case.”
If Las Vegas, via the LVCVA board of directors and the Clark County Commission, suddenly decided to yank the rug out from under F1, there certainly would be legal action from Liberty Media, the race’s owner, which invested $500 million to build a permanent paddock structure off Koval Lane.
Las Vegas is contracted to host the race in 2024 and 2025 with options to extend the agreement for at least seven more years. Hill explained that it’s similar to the way the National Finals Rodeo deal is structured, with the latitude to make changes in the contract as things change.
“After three years, at some point — and that might happen after this race or it might happen after the first couple — we’ll get into a conversation,” Hill said. “We’ll ask what did we learn, what would races going forward look like and have a conversation about that. That’s been the intent all along.”
And conditions will undoubtedly change.
Track preparations minimal
Next year, it has been promised, there won’t be as much track preparation necessary. Streets were closed and routes were blocked beginning in the spring as crews prepared the 3.8-mile race circuit. That level of preparation won’t be necessary next year.
Transportation around town will be different in the years ahead as the Boring Co.’s underground transit system becomes established. Instead of parking at the Las Vegas Convention Center and taking the Monorail or a shuttle bus to work, Strip employees could get vouchers to get to work with that underground system.
Industry leaders should ask some other questions.
Should the week before Thanksgiving be race week?
That seems to be locked in. The week before Thanksgiving was the second-slowest visitation week in Las Vegas (behind the week before Christmas). While return travel from Las Vegas to the rest of the United States after the race could bump up against pre-Thanksgiving travel, that isn’t the case for European countries where Thanksgiving is observed more often in September or October as a harvest festival.
What about changing the time? Live entertainment, one of the staples of Las Vegas, saw shows go dark because the 10 p.m. start time of the race conflicted with some shows.
But the reason for the 10 p.m. start was because fans in Europe, where F1 is followed more vigorously, could watch on television while drinking their Sunday morning coffee or tea.
It works the same way for NFL games played in London or Germany. Games played in Great Britain have 9 a.m. starts on the East Coast and 6 a.m. here.
It seems a slightly earlier race start time could salvage some nightlife and shows.
What about the small businesses that saw what profits they had dry up because their storefronts couldn’t be accessed?
There’s also a concern about whether F1’s presence could deter other travelers from coming to Las Vegas. If potential visitors perceive the message to be “Don’t go to Las Vegas before F1, the traffic is brutal, the shows are dark and many of the attractions are blocked,” it could take a bite out of visitation.
But it’s also possible that F1 fans not attending the race could be here to absorb the atmosphere of the event in the same way that thousands of people are in Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo but never attend it because the event consistently sells out.
If F1 organizers develop a “fan zone” for the race, it could drive additional visitors to the city. Hill said organizers declined doing that this year to focus police and security presence on areas around the race course.
Hill also said he hopes to work with F1 organizers to make the race more inclusive for local residents. That would have to include lowering the price of admission, a factor that has discouraged many locals from engaging the sport.
Some readers also have complained to me that F1 isn’t exciting enough because the tight track discourages racers from passing each other and that Verstappen – the pre-race favorite – was the predictable winner. But it should be noted that Verstappen had to come from behind in the Las Vegas race to win it.
Locals who hate F1 would have to come from behind to win their race.