Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Las Vegas ready for F1 races after a year of construction preparing for the event

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The Las Vegas Strip has been fully transformed for the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix slated to begin with practice races on Thursday. 

Some Las Vegas favorites, like the Bellagio fountains, have become a less impressive spectacle, having been largely blocked due to construction.

The gondolas in the Venetian Resort canal were removed ahead of the race. The high-profile race is expected to shovel in many wealthy spectators and at least 105,000 attendees, providing a boost to tourism to the Strip. That boost, however, comes at a cost, since the transformation of the famous strip has caused much disruption in the past year.

“Fountains have been shut off, canals drained, streets closed or harder to navigate,” Michael Green, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas history professor said per The Associated Press. “What are they calling it? Stripmageddon? It is clearly causing a lot of uproar.”

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“But this is a different kind of big event,” Green continued. “We’re talking about billionaires from around the world. They’re going to bring in a ton of money. They’re not necessarily the usual tourist.”

“I want to apologize to all the Las Vegas residents, and we appreciate their forbearance and their willingness to tolerate us. We’re going to bring something like a billion and seven to the area, so it’s not just for the benefits [for] who want to view. We hope there’s a great economic benefit in Las Vegas. We hope this is the most difficult year because of all the construction that went on. Things will be easier in the future, but I understand we have asked a lot of the people of Las Vegas, so we hope we can bring a lot to them too,” said Greg Maffei, the CEO of F1’s parent company Liberty Media.

Though Formula 1 has cost more than half a billion dollars to put together to host those of elite status, it has yet to bolster the status of a sold-out show. Ticket prices have been slashed, and hotel fares have decreased as well.

There are various possible contributors to blame in regard to the amount of tickets still up for sale, including cooler weather expected over the weekend and the late 10:00 p.m. PST start time of the main event on Saturday. 

Additionally, driver Max Verstappen won the championship title in Qatar back in October, weighing on the overall enthusiasm for the event. However, Formula 1 racing has seen a new onlook of fans since the 2019 release of the popular Netflix docuseries “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.”

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Through race weekend, hotels and venues throughout the city will be hosting events, special performances, driver appearances and viewing parties for the race. The Las Vegas monorail will also be running for transportation. 

“There will be elements at the Sphere. The launch party, really from Wednesday to Sunday, almost a week of events and musical acts, and you’re seeing sports figures from other sports having their own kind of side party, viewing parties. I think we’ve attracted an unbelievable wide range of activities for all sorts of fans of all sorts of reasons who want to be in Las Vegas for this,” said Maffei.

The races will kick off on Thursday, with practice races for drivers to familiarize themselves with the track. 

Saturday at 10:00 p.m. PST will mark the start of the main race, where 20 drivers will compete. The drivers will race through a 3.8-mile street circuit in the heart of Sin City. They will drive by popular Vegas landmarks at breathtaking speeds, like the newly opened Sphere, Wynn, Harrah’s, Flamingo, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Cosmopolitan and more. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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