A business owner said today he was disappointed when the group hoping to bring Formula One racing to New Jersey's Hudson waterfront confirmed today what had been rumored for months: the inaugural race slated for June 2013 has been postponed by a year.
In a statement issued this morning, race organizers tied the delay to "ongoing construction issues on the unique riverfront street course." They pointed specifically to the need for more time to develop facilities and finish the second pits and paddock garage on the site.
For nearly a year, race organizers and state officials have touted a world-class event that would take place on public roads in Weehawken and West New York, largely through the Port Imperial master-planned development. The race, which would take place on a 3.2-mile course, would be the first in a 10-year run and draw some 100,000 spectators to the region.
But the buildup has been tempered since the spring by speculation about contractual and financing issues. That culminated late Thursday in the news, first reported by the Jersey Journal, that the race would be postponed.
"We are going to be racing at Port Imperial; unfortunately, just not as soon as we hoped and expected," Leo Hindery Jr., chief promoter for Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, said in this morning's statement. "We promised Governor (Chris) Christie, the towns, the sport and its international fans the best possible experience, and unfortunately we need additional time to ensure that happens."
Roseland Property Co., which owns Port Imperial, is developing the two commuter parking facilities that will serve as team garages for F1 cars. Carl J. Goldberg, Roseland's managing principal, was traveling today and not available for comment.
News of the delay was "absolutely disappointing" to Ricardo D'Ippolito, director of operations for Silan Real Estate, in West New York. His agency has been using online marketing to try to reach European countries, hoping that would-be race spectators would turn to the firm for lodging.
"We've invested a considerable amount of marketing dollars to get these people in," said D'Ippolito, an "avid" F1 fan. "Obviously, it's just a three-day event … but considering that it's a worldwide event, it's quite a big deal for us as a real estate agency."
But he said the postponement wasn't entirely surprising, citing the months of media speculation and the feeling that many businesses and residents "are really in the dark about … what types of preparations are going on." He conceded that road work for the race would not likely be done more than a month or two in advance, but the only other sign of preparations was the ongoing garage construction, he said.
"I know there's a lot of money involved here, and it's all private money, so I guess they have the right to privacy," D'Ippolito said. "But at the same time, it's a bit of a hassle for us to plan on rumors and plan on things that we're not really so sure will end up going through."
Race organizers have issued regular updates about vendor partnerships in recent months, and in June appeared at a promotional event at the track site. In today's statement, they also noted the substantial construction of the first garage and other permanent facilities, extensive track engineering and operations planning and hiring of senior staff.
But since April, F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has fueled speculation that the race would be delayed, despite insistence by promoters that such concerns were unfounded. Late last month, the World Motor Sports Council put New Jersey on its June 2013 calendar, but the date was the only one marked with an asterisk.
Today's statement included mutual pledges of support from the two camps. Hindery said the race "could have no better partner and friend than … Ecclestone. We benefit greatly from his experience and counsel and from his support."
Ecclestone, meanwhile, said he was totally committed to the Port Imperial race and its unique location and attributes, and we will continue to work closely together to realize our dream in 2014."