Circuit of the Americas announced today that president and CEO Jason Dial is leaving the company. While this news comes after a disastrous Formula One weekend and a devastating rainstorm, Dial is the latest of a series of executives to have come and gone from the facility.
Dial was hired to be president of the facility two years ago after serving as marketing director for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He took on the role of CEO one month later after Steve Sexton left the role.
Circuit of the Americas released this statement about Dial’s departure today:
After careful consideration, the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) board of directors has decided to part ways with CEO Jason Dial. We appreciate Jason’s hard work in his two years at COTA, but it’s time to move in a different direction. As we embark on a busy year, we are committed to delivering an outstanding fan experience and world-class events. While a search for replacement is underway, an interim executive committee of the board will lead COTA’s day-to-day operations.
It’s unfortunate news to be sure, but also not too much of a surprise regardless of how the F1 weekend went. COTA’s perceived struggles with promoting its racing events to racing fans has come under fire before. Road & Track’s Marshall Pruett, for example, wondered where all the fans were for the inaugural Lone Star Le Mans event in 2013, and this past year’s race wasn’t great either.
Shortfalls in attendance have since continued to be an issue over the years. The Austin American-Statesman reports that F1 attendance has dropped every year since its inaugural event in 2012. The X Games, too, had a drop in attendance for its second trip to Austin this year, per the Austin Business Journal.
Bucking the trend of lower attendance numbers was this year’s Lone Star Le Mans event, which Circuit of the Americas reported an attendance of 58,400 spectators over last year’s 50,000. “However, that would appear to be an optimistic estimate judging by the size of the crowd, particularly on Saturday,” remarked Sportscar365’s John Dagys, who was at the event and still noticed sparse crowds. That was after World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu emphasized to circuit officials the need to attract better crowds to the event.
Thus, it would be unfair to say that Dial’s departure is a direct result of this year’s grand prix being a flop. The circuit—saddled with many dirt parking lots as well as inadequate infrastructure leading to it—appears to have done as much as it could in light of such a brutal storm, such as pulling in additional parking shuttles to encourage more fans to park in paved lots off-site and allowing fans to trade in Saturday tickets for Sunday ones after the day was shortened and qualifying was rained out.
Rather, COTA has a bit of a reputation as being somewhat of a revolving door ever since its inception, dating all the way back to the split with Epstein and fellow founders Kevin Schwantz and Tavo Hellmund. Many high-level hires have come and gone in the four years of COTA’s existence. On our end, we’re on media contact number three.
Autoweek reports that current chief strategy officer and newest executive hire Jason Rittenberry is the rumored replacement for Dial. Rittenberry comes from IRG Sports + Entertainment, the parent company of the International Hot Rod Association drag racing sanctioning body. While that isn’t experience with big international road course events, it’s at least another motorsport, and perhaps experience with American motorsports would be a plus in that role.
COTA is undoubtedly one of the best racing venues in the world right now. It’s also still very young and trying to find its footing. Hopefully some stability will come its way soon.
A little less rain during the flagship event would be nice too, but that’s in someone else hands.
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