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Business, F1 racing become fast friends

But N.J. again competes with N.Y. to capture attention, wallets of tourists

Ricardo D’Ippolito, a longtime fan of Formula One racing, never expected the real estate office he leads in West New York to offer a front-row seat to a world-class street race.

Ricardo D’Ippolito, a longtime fan of Formula One racing, never expected the real estate office he leads in West New York to offer a front-row seat to a world-class street race.

But the director of operations for Silan Real Estate is hoping if he moves quickly, he’ll be able to rent space near his Boulevard East office to race organizers.

“The months leading to those three days, that race weekend, will actually be very beneficial, in my opinion, to the local businesses,” D’Ippolito said, adding that residential spaces his company owns could serve as short-term rentals, too. “It could be a tremendous opportunity for us.”

That’s a sentiment race sponsors say will be borne out by businesses up and down the Hudson River waterfront, where the Formula One Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial is scheduled to start a 10-year run in June 2013.
The sheer magnitude of the race is bound to accrue to New Jersey’s benefit, said Carl Goldberg, managing partner of Roseland Property Co., which owns much of the property around the race course.

“I think the economic benefits — in terms of hotel occupancy, restaurant utilization, temporary jobs, spillover benefits to local retailers — are tangible and ultimately measurable,” Goldberg said. While Roseland isn’t a race sponsor — its role is limited to licensing agreements allowing its property to be used — Goldberg said the riverfront will benefit from the marquee value of the event.

For instance, the development potential for building a marina at Port Imperial will be rationalized by demand caused by events like the race, Goldberg said. He said tax revenue from race activity will come from international visitors, rather than siphoning from other economic activity in the state.

Coincidentally, Roseland owns a property in Jersey City named Monaco, whose namesake country hosts the world’s premier Formula One race.

But the towns of West New York and Weehawken, where the 3.2-mile course will be laid out, don’t boast the tourism infrastructure or panache of Manhattan, meaning New Jersey faces a stiff challenge in luring the jet-setting crowd that will attend the race.

“If we think of NASCAR as the blue-collar version, with the stock cars, (Formula One is) the rich man’s,” said Michael L. Lahr, associate research professor at Rutgers University’s Center for Urban Policy Research. “This is highbrow, rich people’s stuff. Are they going to stay in New Jersey? Probably not.”

Still, Lahr said, some of the money reeled in by the event will inevitably benefit New Jersey.

“As long as we’re not spending dough, it’s not bad news,” he said, noting the announcement that no public money would be spent on the race.

And at least one race sponsor expects New Jersey is poised to capture the lion’s share of the economic activity generated by the race, rather than its neighbor to the east. Leo Hindery, managing partner of New York-based InterMedia Partners L.P., said he expects two-thirds of the 100,000 spectators for the race will be arriving from the New Jersey side, including hotels south and west of the towns, while the rest will ride the ferry from Manhattan.

“Those people are just as likely to stay at hotels and use restaurants on the New Jersey side” as in New York, he said, and Hoboken presents a more affordable, convenient option to New York.

“If I were coming in, I’d be hard-pressed to stay in New York,” he said.

Maria Nieves, president and CEO of the Hudson County Chamber of Commerce, said the region has the hotel rooms to sustain tourists. The race “will reap significant economic benefits” for the county, she said, adding that she expects visitors to stay over in Hoboken and Jersey City, as well as the Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel, in Weehawken.

Grace Hanlon, director of travel and tourism for New Jersey, also said the state stands to benefit, especially since the June race dates will allow visitors to extend their stays at the Shore.

The state’s tourism industry is “creative and energetic,” she said. “I predict that the tourism industry will be putting together some great packages.”

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