By Geoffrey Brown
Nassau Guardian Business Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Bahamas government has unveiled plans for a $10 million “world-class” motorsports track and complex in New Providence through a partnership with auto racing’s global governing body, in a bid to further promote the country’s sports tourism economy.
Dr Daniel Johnson
Minister of youth, sports and culture Dr Daniel Johnson announced the proposed track along with global and regional directors of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), stating that the track is expected to be used year-round. He said he expects that a “five to one” return can be achieved for each dollar spent on the facility.
“We are committed to building a world-class track again… We’re going to rebuild a world-class racing track for motorsports in The Bahamas that will have multiple uses: motorcycles, drag races, dirt racing, all sorts of races.
“We want to put The Bahamas on the world motorsports tour. Same model, same place. This will be a fantastic opportunity for Bahamians,” stated Johnson, adding that the government would use May’s International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Relays as a blueprint for future sports tourism endeavours, including the proposed FIA track.
The $10 million complex will host FIA racing events while also offering a venue for government training and community outreach programs. However, the finalized location of the track and estimated date of completion were not provided.
“What I’d like to share with the Bahamian public is our commitment to sports tourism… We are developing our sports tourism brand by partnering with the best brands in the world to bring the most exciting events in the world to The Bahamas and make it a regular part of the calendar… the investment is well worth it,” said Johnson.
David McLaughlin, chairman of Bahamas Speed Week and newly appointed FIA director for The Bahamas and Caribbean, similarly hoped that the track would provide a sustainable source of sports tourism revenue while providing uses for the government beyond hosting racing events, such as a venue for police and emergency medical services (EMS) training.
“The big ticket is sports tourism. You get much, much more bang for your buck with sports tourism,” said McLaughlin while adding that Bahamas Speed Week Revival, now in its third year, had injected nearly $3 million into the Bahamian economy.
“Already at the early stages of motorsports in this country it’s really cost-effective… [The track] will be sustainable. It’s not a cost – it’s an investment, and it’s a sustainable one,” stated McLaughlin.
Although the panel did not reveal the complex’s location, McLaughlin said that the government and FIA were assessing two viable locations for the track, including Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre and a yet-to-be-disclosed venue.
FIA president Jean Todt also welcomed the announcement, stating that FIA had “great ambitions for the country”.
Not a ‘frivolous’ expense
Johnson argued that the proposed motorsports track did not constitute “frivolous” government spending, despite the weak state of the Bahamian economy and calls for expenditure reduction.
“It’s not about a one-off Speed Week… It’s an investment in the economy and an investment in the Bahamian people. Large-scale events are seen now by all the major organizations in the world as a way to stimulate the domestic economy,” said Johnson.
Johnson claimed the government had “reasonable estimates” that the $10 million IAAF event generated an economic impact of three times that amount, and would use a similar model for the FIA track.
“It’s been a three-to-one return in my present experience, but I think I can drive it to five-to-one,” said Johnson.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian