Let’s try a little word association: when I say “F1”, what comes to mind? Is it private jets, megadollar motor yachts, parking lots packed with Ferraris and Bentleys and streets filled with jet setting celebrities? Good. Now, when I say “F1 track”, do you think of Monte Carlo, Hockenheim, Silverstone, Monza or Valencia? Probably. I’ll bet that Liberty State Park, in Jersey City, New Jersey, doesn’t come to mind, even if you already live near there.
That hasn’t stopped representatives of Jersey City from reaching out to F1 planners. Their proposal includes a 3.6 mile track within the current boundaries of Liberty State Park, named for the Statue of Liberty. Opponents fear that the race (and other events that would be held at a permanent speedway) would detract from the area’s historical and ecological value.
None other than Bernie Ecclestone himself supports the idea of an F1 race in the shadow of New York City. There’s no denying that such an event has the potential to bring in vast sums of tourist dollars, but can the area support the crowds that F1 is likely to draw? More importantly, can the area actually impress well healed F1 fans? On race day, getting to and from the track would be a challenge, especially for those driving in from New York City. There aren’t many hotels adjacent to Liberty State Park, at least not the kinds of hotels frequented by F1 fans. Jersey City itself isn’t a particularly safe place, ditto for Newark, so how do you ensure the well being of F1 fans and their trappings?
Other U.S Grand Prix locations (Phoenix, Indianapolis) never drew the crowds expected, and the races lasted only a few years in each location. Jersey City would have one chance to get this right; fail, and you will have wasted an enormous amount of money on building a world-class racing facility that no one will ever use. On the other hand, if they succeed, the long term benefits may be just what the area needs to revitalize itself. Call me cautiously optimistic.