Sunday, July 30, 2023 | 2 a.m.
The parent company of the Las Vegas Grand Prix has received nearly 20 permits from Clark County to enhance surfaces and infrastructure on the Las Vegas Strip and nearby streets for the Formula One race in November, according to documents reviewed by the Sun.
But Liberty Media hasn’t applied for any permits to construct barriers that would impede the views of the Nov. 18 race from businesses along the Strip.
The New York Post last week reported that Formula One is threatening to block the views of Strip restaurants and clubs overlooking the 3.8-mile race course unless they pay a licensing fee. The report also said “that lights will be shined toward the viewing areas of unlicensed venues, blinding guests trying to get a peek at the nighttime race.”
Race organizers are requesting that establishments with views pay a fee of $1,500 per person, according to the Post story.
The Post also reported that Liberty Media sent a letter to establishments seeking the payments and threatening to install barriers to block views of the race course if they don’t pay.
That letter hasn’t been produced by Liberty Media, which would not confirm to the Sun whether it was sent. We also attempted to get the letter from businesses who may have received it, but management we’ve contacted said they haven’t seen it.
However, the company is not denying it made the request.
In a statement to the Sun, race officials said, “F1 commonly executes licensing agreements to protect its intellectual property rights, and the Las Vegas Grand Prix is following this same approach. In addition, these arrangements allow the Las Vegas Grand Prix to ensure the fan experience in its partner venues meets the expectations for this event.”
Many resort companies on the Strip are already partners with the race, including Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, Resorts World, Venetian, Hard Rock International (Mirage) and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The partnership allows them to construct Strip-adjacent grandstands and sell viewing tickets. It also means they can host official events using the league’s branding.
It’s unknown how restaurants leasing space from a resort company that’s already a partner would be affected.
The county has produced no permit that would allow Formula One to intentionally obstruct the view from neighboring business, which on its face would appear to violate the property rights of those businesses. The Sun’s search of an online permit database also didn’t turn up an event permit.
That’s likely because the county in February approved a resolution waiving a 120-day deadline prior to an event limit for filing an application for a special event for the race because “good cause exists” and there’s “no reasonable burden on the county or its citizens.”
The resolution also says the county will work with race officials and affiliates on race setup, but stresses “the resolution is not intended to waive any other requirements of the Clark County code, nor any other standards, conditions, permit requirements, laws, ordinances and regulations.”
Liberty Media has been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into preparations for the race. Permits have been approved for repaving on the Strip, construction of a 300,000-square-foot paddock facility that will serve as the group’s full-time headquarters on Koval Lane and Harmon Avenue, and more.
Road construction started April 2 on Sands Avenue, bringing lane closures and snarled traffic. The work will continue through mid-September, the county said.
The road upgrades will cost up to $80 million, a race official told the Clark County Commission in late May when requesting $40 million in public money for the infrastructure enhancements.
The commission, on a 4-3 vote, gave its approval for staff to begin negotiations on the county’s contribution. Commissioners Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Justin Jones and Michael Naft voted against the negotiations.
“My challenge is that, I fully understand incentivizing special events and incentivizing businesses to come to the community and I see the value in that, but I’m not really sure from the county’s perspective how this got to this point, because I don’t really know what we’re negotiating for,” Naft said during the May meeting.
“Formula One is already here … and I think it’s going to be a big boon to the economy,” Naft said. “This negotiation feels a little bit too late.”
Stephanie Allen, who represented race organizers at the meeting, said the money was requested because “there’s a significant public purpose related to the improvements to Clark County’s roads that you all will own after those improvements and have exclusive use of after those improvements, with the exception of the race on an annual basis.”
The Las Vegas Grand Prix will be the first race the league has contested on a Saturday in more than 40 years. Formula One is looking to make a splash in the U.S. market with cars being showcased under the bright lights of the Strip. It will also contest a race in October in Miami.
The 50-lap race is expected to bring 170,000 people to Las Vegas, officials said when announcing the event. The resolution signed in February made the race an annual event through 2032.
“Liberty Media and F1 have made a long-term investment to race in Las Vegas,” race officials said in their statement to the Sun. “We want the local community to benefit from our event, and we are confident that the race will bring tremendous economic value to Las Vegas as a whole.”