UPDATED 8/3/12: Includes ACA end time update
Circuit of the Americas (COTA), the host of the 2012 Formula 1 US Grand Prix in Austin, has proposed to hold a concert event at Auditorium Shores on Friday and Saturday evenings, November 16th and 17th. However, Parks and Recreation (PARD) Special Event policy states a 25 event maximum, a number already maxed out in 2012. Mayor Leffingwell has sponsored a Resolution amending PARD policy to allow the F1 event in 2012. I will be meeting with Council members and aides to voice our opposition to this resolution. During the meetings I will do my best to have them understand the substantial impact these type of events have on pedestrian and vehicle safety, traffic and parking congestion in neighborhood streets and corridors, increased commutes, and overall quality of life.
The event has two other notable features. First, it occurs during the same time as the Junior League’s Christmas Affair (ACA) at the Palmer Event Center. PARD policy states that two events should not take place at the same time, which recognizes the area cannot accommodate more than 20,000 people. And to boot, the ACA event includes an outdoor patio mini-event from 6-8pm, ostensibly effecting the COTA concert start time, which in turn would mean a later end time, possibly after 11pm. Our neighbors may be faced with at least 90 minutes of traffic congestion that we potentially will remember for the rest of our lives.
Second, the proposed F1 event allows for an 11pm end time, one hour past PARD’s 10pm park curfew. From F1‘s perspective, the later end time is not an egregious interruption of your sleep time but rather a practical way to start their event later to allow for ACA traffic to dissipate. Thus, if they start later, they will need to end later. Of course, I suggested that if they quietly air lifted all the attendees in at 6pm, there would be no need for the later end time. Apparently FI does not have any stealth people movers that are airborne … bummer.
To reiterate our position, BCNA is opposed to resolutions amending PARD Special Events Policy. Whether its F1 or another event, the PARD Special Events Policy evolved from meetings and discussions starting in 1989 with the Park Land Policy Committee. Area residents and stakeholders were involved with this committee. In fact, all agreed that it was “critical to create outstanding cultural and open space amenities we want to pass on to the next generation of Austinites.” Too many events will degrade this precious green space.
It is clear that City Council has the required votes to pass the resolution. I encourage you to write City Council members, including the Mayor, expressing your opposition or other concerns.
On the brighter side, I am engaged with COTA, PARD, and Transportation to discuss BCNA’s concerns with the proposed event. Even though we are opposed, it is important to remain engaged with the interested parties to ensure BCNA residents’ best interests are considered and addressed. For example, COTA has already agreed to pay for extended barricades during both their event and ACA. Additionally, they have a fleet of shuttle buses they will utilize and we will work together on specifics of the shuttle bus plan. Hopefully we can assay traffic congestion with the shuttle buses which could, in turn, allow the event to end earlier than 11pm.
COTA also is willing to discuss ideas on how they can contribute to parkland restoration. As you may be aware, Auditorium Shores is the last piece of the Town Lake Master Plan that has yet to be completed. In that Master Plan, the parkland around Auditorium Shores refers to the area as a ‘signature cultural park.’ We hope that our exposure to City Council and our discussions with COTA, along with media attention and neighbor activism, will bring awareness and action to complete the Town Lake Master Plan. Thus making Auditorium Shores the ‘jewel’ of Austin’s parkland.