Discover Austin: Circuit of the Americas - Episode 53

Circuit of the Americas has something to offer everyone.  Whether you love Formula 1, racing cars yourself, soccer, music, or more you won't be disappointed with your visit to the complex.  If you'd prefer to read about COTA, the script can be found below the video.

Greetings, I’m Craig Smyser.  Located southeast of downtown and near the airport is a spectacular venue known for racing and concerts, but there’s so much more to it.  We’re going to take a closer look at Circuit of the Americas on this episode of Discover Austin.

Circuit of the Americas, commonly referred to as COTA, opened in 2012 and was the first track in the United States specifically built for Formula 1 Grand Prix racing.  The track is 3.41 miles long with 20 turns.  This is turn 1 and it’s the most iconic turn here at COTA.  The cars will race at about 196 miles an hour up this 133-foot incline and then they’ve got to slow it down to 30 miles an hour to make the hairpin turn.  The track is unusual in that the races are done counterclockwise.  The F1 race is usually at the end of October or beginning of November and around a quarter of a million spectators come out for the multi-day event, with many of them traveling to Texas from international locations.  While F1 is the most notable of all the racing events at COTA, there’s also the MotoGP motorcycle race, Indycar Classic, and Rallycross.

The Amphitheatre is a permanent, outdoor concert venue that can hold up to 14,000 fans.  Tucked in between turns 15 and 19, it hosts several concerts a month and has featured performances by Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Tim McGraw.  During F1 weekend, major concerts are held on the Festival Lawn between turns 11 and 12.  Past performers include Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Bruno Mars.

The COTA (observation) Tower is about 25 stories tall with 419 steps.  When you get to the top you can take a quick look down.

COTA is home to the Austin Bold, a professional soccer club in the United Soccer League.  The team started play in 2019 at the 5,000 seat stadium which is adjacent to the amphitheatre.

Obviously, there are a lot of concession areas available to feed everyone who is on-site for the various events at COTA.  There are dozens of choices and I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking.

The race track is available to rent for private purposes.  While few people would have the need and the resources to rent the track individually, there are certainly companies that rent out the track for a day.  It’s a great way for companies in the auto industry to entertain clients or for any industry to reward employees.

Another way to personally drive on the COTA track is to sign up for their Driving Experience.  There are full and half day experiences that give you the opportunity to drive high-performance cars at COTA.  The program is designed for those with zero track experience all the way up to seasoned track experts.

If race cars aren’t quite your thing, then maybe the go-carts are a better choice.  COTA Karting features go-carts that race on a miniature COTA track and kids are permitted to drive.  The track is open seven days a week and you can make reservations in advance or just show up.  If you have your own go-cart and would like to race it here, they do occasionally have Bring Your Own Kart events.  They also have a variety of go-cart racing leagues if you’d like to compete against other racers on a regular basis.

If you want to get off the ground for a while, then take a ride on the Zip Line.

If you like to bike (and by that I mean bicycle and not the ROT Rally kind of bike), then you should know about Bike Night.  On Tuesday evenings March through June, cyclists can enjoy riding around the COTA track.  If you are a cyclist, this is definitely a cool experience.

COTA is home to Central Texas’ biggest recurring car show, Cars and Coffee.  This group of car enthusiasts meets monthly for a pop-up auto show.  Admission to see the cars is free.

Circuit of the Americas owns about 1500 acres of which almost 450 have been developed.  There are future plans for hotels and other entertainment options.  COTA also features a lot of convention and entertainment space.  They can host private events for a few dozen up to several thousand people in the Paddock Center. The Velocity Lounge can be rented for private social functions and is available for grandstand viewers during major events.

COTA has a lot of important operations behind the scenes that make race day successful.  One of these is the marshal program.  From this room, marshals watch the entire track and can see if there are any accidents or other mishaps that require immediate attention.  Whenever the track is in use, there are EMS personnel on site and able to respond on a moment’s notice.  The marshals also monitor the weather and can shut down operations prior to inclement conditions arriving at COTA.

When the world-wide eyes of Formula One racing turn to Austin, there is a large media contingent that comes along.  The media center is their home base to report on the event.

As you can see, a lot goes on at Circuit of the America’s.  Whether you like watching racing, concerts, go-karting, or more, there is always something going on at COTA so come on out to enjoy the fun.  I’m Craig Smyser, thanks for joining me for this episode of Discover Austin.

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