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City Council OK’s COTA Bid to Lure X Games to Austin

The Circuit of the Americas Track could be the next venue for the Summer X Games. The games are currently held across multiple venues in Los Angeles, like L.A. Live.

Update: Today the Austin City Council gave the go-ahead to the Circuit of the Americas’s attempt to secure a three-year Summer X Games contract.

The city approval allows COTA to seek state money and incentives under the Events Trust Fund during the bid process for the games. It also includes $150,000 in fee waivers for police overtime and trash clean-up.

Anthony Snipes with the City Manager’s office said the event could rake in as much as $50 million: that’s $30 million in “hard” economic impact, and a “soft” impact of $20 million, via media exposure and branding.

Council member Bill Spelman supported the measure, but says Austin doesn’t need the help.

“If I could pay people to forget about us, I would do so right now,” Spelman joked. “We are now the 11th biggest city in the country. Maybe when we were 18th or 23rd it was valuable, but right now I think it really hurts us.”

The council passed the measure on a 5-2 vote, with council members Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison voting against.

Chicago, Detroit and Raleigh are also courting the games. Organizer ESPN is expected to make a decision in July.

Original post (May 21): The Circuit of the Americas wants the City of Austin to get extreme.

City council members heard a pitch from COTA’s Steve Sexton this morning. The Formula 1-hosting racetrack wants the council’s help applying for state tax incentives from the Events Trust Fund for ESPN's X Games, which will move from Los Angeles next spring.

Sexton says that ESPN could choose Austin because of the track’s size. The sprawling track would also be dedicated to the event. He added that if Austin’s bid is accepted, it could mean construction of permanent structures over the three-year contract beginning next spring – namely a skatepark.

“That’s a benefit to them economically and, yes, it would be a benefit to the community," Sexton said.  "Now, we’d have to work out the details of how that works and who has access and when. But it would be a tremendous advantage, not only for competing athletes that live in Austin that would be able to practice, but for the general public.”

Sexton told the council that the event may require as much as $800,000 in sales tax reimbursements and $150,000 in city fee waivers and other incentives to get things moving.  Sexton says the event could bring in $50 million over the four day competition – with 30 million in revenue from hotel and alcoholic beverage taxes and 20 million in “soft” impact like television exposure. Sexton says the study was based on the games’ economic impact in Los Angeles, but council member Bill Spelman questioned the impact, suggesting the impact might be a bit softer in Austin.   

“The number of local fans would be smaller. We’re a much smaller media market than Los Angeles is,” Spelman said. “So that would be something we would have to take into account, I would imagine. It would be less important to us.”

The council will vote on the measure at their Thursday meeting.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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