The verbal war continues between former 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Kevin Schwantz and the Circuit of the Americas, after the Texan was escorted out of the CotA circuit by track security from the private Honda/Yamaha MotoGP test two weeks ago, despite having proper MotoGP credentials and being an invited guest of the LCR Honda team. Afterward, Schwantz issued a statement describing his experience, which included CotA track security informing him that he was "guilty of criminal trespass" and would be "arrested" if he ever set foot on the grounds again.
This resulted in CotA spokesperson Julie Koenig Loignon issuing a counter-statement that read in part, "It is well known that Kevin Schwantz filed suit against Circuit of The Americas last year, and that case is working its way through the legal system. The MotoGP test that was hosted by the Circuit last week was a private event, and open only to participating teams and invited media. Mr. Schwantz was not invited to attend the session by Circuit of The Americas, and as a private property owner, (CotA) determines who has access to its facility...Circuit of The Americas is the organization responsible for bringing MotoGP to Texas through its promotional agreement with the commercial rights holder Dorna."
Returning fire, Schwantz issued this statement looking to clarify the situation:
"Last week, Circuit of the Americas (CotA) issued a statement suggesting I had nothing to do with bringing MotoGP to Austin. Unlike others who have had disputes with CotA, I am free to speak my mind. So let me set the record straight: I am the reason MotoGP is coming to Texas and no one currently associated with CotA had anything to do with the design of the actual racetrack. There's no shortage of evidence to prove these facts.
The Schwantz statement then goes on to list various forms of proof in his side of the CotA dispute: "On February 2, 2011, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta sent me a letter confirming that 3FourTexasMGP, my company, is the 'sole rights holder for MotoGP in the state of Texas for the years 2013-2022.' On February 3, 2011, Comptroller Susan Combs sent a letter to me and Mr. Ezpeleta confirming that the MotoGP U.S. Grand Prix would be included in the state's Event Trust Fund beginning in 2013. In that letter, the state comptroller explained that the annual funding would be sent to 3fourTexasMGP, 'the rights holder for all MotoGP events in Texas.' On April 12, 2011, at the request of the state comptroller, a press conference was held announcing that MotoGP was on its way to Texas. Finally, on July 22, 2011, Mr. Ezpeleta sent a letter to the state Comptroller saying that 'both Kevin (Schwantz) and I are positive that the measured success of our events in Texas will be fantastic for both the state of Texas and MotoGP.'
I have spent too much time and money the past five years on this project, including helping the Comptroller during the 2011 Legislative session and CotA in raising money, for me to sit by and allow this repeated misinformation to continue. CotA's attempt to downplay my involvement with Austin's MotoGP event is silly, but some of the group's other actions may verge on something far more serious. It is my belief that just like the F1 event, they are attempting to rewrite history in an effort to qualify for one of the Texas Event Trust Funds."
The last sentence in the Schwantz statement refers to the state of Texas' METF (Major Events Trust Fund), a huge tax slush fund that is earmarked for assisting with major sporting events (NFL Super Bowl, MLB World Series, etc.) that would result in local retail and sales tax windfalls. When Tavo Hellmund -- the person credited with the vision of the F1 race on an Austin circuit and helping to gather the money behind construction together -- was still involved with CotA, state comptroller Susan Combs was fervently behind the project, and had originally scheduled $25 million of METF money each year for the duraction of its F1 contract to be slated for the track to help with costs despite political pressure against the move. But when Hellmund was forced out and the future of the race became in doubt as construction was temporarily halted due to the circuit's futile attempts to negotiate with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, Combs quickly yanked away the METF money and made its disbursement contingent upon the event being "reviewed and analyzed for its economic impact, and only after the race occurs (will) any funds be disbursed."
According to Autoweek, CotA eventually did receive a reported $29.3 million of METF money in December after the November F1 event, although the reimbursement payment was said to be based on increased sales-tax revenue estimates submitted to the comptroller's office in August 2012, and not on the actual revenues themselves. While an initial report showed that Austin received a significant boost in hotel revenue compared to the same week the year before, the actual increase was well below what was forecast in the economic impact projection estimate in the application for the METF funds. The comptroller's office said it will conduct and complete a post-race study within the next 18 months in order to comply with the Texas METF statute.
The CotA PR battle with Schwantz may have some unintended negative consequences...