Formula 1’s Legacy in Long Beach
From 1976 to 1983, on one weekend per year, Long Beach was the absolute epicenter of the motorsport world. Before that era, Long Beach was not the swankiest of areas. Dominated by the port and Naval base, the type of clientele frequenting the downtown area was certainly not the upper echelon of society; Long Beach had gained a bit of a rough reputation. In an effort to clean up the city’s image and revitalize the area, the Queen Mary luxury liner was permanently docked in Long Beach harbor, but it wasn’t until a few years later when a British businessman’s vision of turning Long Beach into the Monaco of the west, that the city really began its massive turnaround.
Over the course of Formula 1’s 8-year stay in Long Beach, it regularly drew international attention to the area, bringing with it superstar drivers from the likes of Mario Andretti to James Hunt, and the glamorous opulence that follows the sport. With Hollywood just up the road, F1 and Long Beach seemed a match made in heaven. That is, until 1984 came round and the event was slain at the hands of F1’s boss, Bernie Ecclestone. Although the event had become a success, the city of Long Beach was simply unable to shell out the multiple millions Ecclestone demanded for a space on F1’s calendar. By the time F1 left, Long Beach had seen a redevelopment heyday; having erected the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, Shoreline Village and Marina, and even the housing of the Spruce Goose in a dome right next to the Queen Mary, it would be nearly impossible to refute the claim that Formula 1 had two large hands involved in bringing life to the former port town.
Over the past thirty years the United States Grand Prix has either been non-existent, or bounced around from city to city with stints in Las Vegas, Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, and most recently, Indianapolis. In 2012, after a six-year hiatus, the sport finally found a new home in our country: Austin, TX. And while this time F1 took to the first purpose-built facility in a city that has recently become known as the cultural hub of the Southwest, the anticipation for the event was as high as ever.
Last year’s event in Austin turned out to be a thrilling success. The facility was world class; the action went down to the wire with Lewis Hamilton stealing the lead from eventual World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps. Over 115,000 people were there to see it on race day – the second highest attendance of any Grand Prix last year. According to Formula 1 industry monitor, Formula Money, the city of Austin itself gained global media coverage worth over $191 million. With figures like this, it’s no surprise that the attention F1 brought with it back then was able to spark a complete change the landscape of Long Beach.