Florida loves racing, and Miami has always been a showcase for fast cars. Now, rumors are swirling that Miami Dolphins owner and real estate tycoon Stephen M. Ross wants to bring a big race to Miami. But before Formula One race organizers ink a deal with city and state officials to bring a race to Miami, organizers may want to make sure their vision fits with that of top Florida elected officials who have staked their reputations, and in some cases their political futures, on their opposition to corporate welfare.
Especially if the principle beneficiary is a billionaire like Ross.
There’s no better city in America for a Formula One race than Miami, but only if it’s done the right way – and that means not racing on the city’s streets and not making taxpayers foot the bill. Florida is already home to two world-class international speedways: Daytona and Homestead International. But allies of Ross – Formula One organizers – are floating a plan to close taxpayer-funded streets so that their souped-up race cars can speed through Miami’s neighborhoods.
If the proposal requires any investment of state tax dollars – whether for event security, road maintenance, special safety precautions or construction requirements, Formula One organizers can expect scrutiny from the likes of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and a number of his Republican colleagues in the Florida Legislature. As a group, they have intentionally and aggressively sought out any targets of opportunity that fit within the definition of corporate welfare.
With Corcoran’s name in the mix as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, he need to find ways to score points with red-meat conservatives. And for an ambitious pol like Corcoran, few high-profile sporting events make a more lucrative target than Formula One racing.
At its core, Formula One is a European sport, sanctioned by the French Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, a government body that easily conjures a rivalry with the NASCAR racing series, which has become as American as apple pie. If you haven’t seen big, hairy, American winning machine “Ricky Bobby“ (played by Will Ferrell) in a bar fight against Sacha Baron Cohen’s French Formula One character “Jean Girard” in Talladega Nights, this scene in the movie perfectly encapsulates the way red-state voters view Formula One:
In order to host Miami’s race earlier this year, organizers spent weeks — and millions of dollars — converting busy Biscayne Boulevard into a professional race track, complete with high perimeter walls. Downtown traffic was completely rerouted, and access to Bayfront Park and area museums was limited. The race itself was deemed a success, with high attendance and mostly favorable reviews, although the event drew the ire of many local environmentalists, who called organizers hypocrites for promoting a green race while paving over part of Parcel B.