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F1's North Jersey race gets a date on calendar

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The first of 10 Formula One races in Hudson County has been put on the 2013 calendar of the global racing circuit, though the date still requires approval by the international body that governs the sport.

The race has been given a June 16 date on the circuit's provisional schedule for next year, making it one of 20 planned races between March and November. Organizers and state officials have long said the race will take place in June, but placement on the calendar has been closely watched amid speculation that contractual and financing issues would delay the event.

Promoters have been adamant that the race is on track, and have spent the summer announcing contracts for support services for the weekend-long event. But having a date for the festivities, which are expected to draw 100,000 people daily, is welcome news for stakeholders.

"Once you have a date, that makes it real," said Jim Kirkos, president and CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce. He has always had confidence in the race organizers, he said, but it's important to have the certainty of the exact weekend.

The chamber has been trying to prepare businesses for the race, which will run through Weehawken and West New York, and other upcoming events like Wrestlemania and the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. Kirkos said he has been "stressing importance of everything from sprucing up property to customer service" in order to ready the region as a destination.

"Every new visitor we attract in a local area like downtown Rutherford or Harmon Meadow, in Secaucus, or the Bergen-Hudson waterfront — places like that — then we're doing our job," Kirkos said, "because we believe those assets are strong enough to send a message to a visitor (to return)."

The chamber also has ramped up advocacy for transportation upgrades around the region. The organization last week convened state officials to discuss infrastructure improvements, in conjunction with a new report outlining transportation needs ahead of the events.

News of Formula One's provisional calendar started to circulate today on media outlets that cover auto racing. The schedule and the New Jersey race date are still subject to approval by the World Motor Sports Council, which will meet Sept. 28, according to published reports.

The race, organized by Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, is expected to be the first of 10 in the Garden State. The event will transform stretches of Weehawken and West New York into a three-mile course, with hairpin turns, steep changes in elevation and cars reaching up to 200 mph.

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has repeatedly cast doubts on the inaugural event since April, citing issues tied to financing and contracts. But in recent months, the organizers have announced contracts with vendors, like a hospitality manager and a technology provider, while unveiling the logo for the race in advance of the event. The group also made news last month when Tom Cotter, its president of eight months, said he was stepping down to return to North Carolina.

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