Las Vegas Grand Prix Chief Operating Officer Leaves

Betsy Fretwell, the chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, has left her role.

Former Las Vegas city manager Fretwell joined the race organizers in January, weeks after the November 2023 race. She has now resigned with the aim of returning to her private consulting business, she said in a statement on Friday. 

“Over the last several months, while serving as the COO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, we developed a solid plan for this year’s race, established clear lines of communication with governing agencies, and furthered critical community relationships,” Fretwell said.

“I’m confident that I’m leaving the LVGP in a stronger position and wish them every success.”

The announcement comes at a difficult time for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. This week, it was revealed that the city’s Ellis Island Casino has filed a lawsuit against the race organizers, claiming that preparations for the race hurt their business. 

Several small business owners are also contemplating a class action suit on similar lines. They have also been vocal about their opposition to the proposed return of the race to Sin City later this year. 

Fretwell’s Tenure

Coming into the role with 30 years experience in project management in Las Vegas, Fretwell would have been well aware the position looked like a tough job. 

With increasing skepticism that the early economic promise of the race was actually delivered for the whole Las Vegas economy, the COO faced a big task in keeping everyone on her side while preparing for this year’s event. 

One of her first moves was to oversee the sale of 7,000 cut-price general admission tickets to local residents for 2024. She also publicly promised that race prep would be less disruptive this year.

She also suggested to open up the $500 million Grand Prix Plaza, which served as the race paddock hub during the event. She floated the idea of using the space for F1 and motorsport tours and exhibitions, although nothing has taken place on that front as of yet.

From the start, Fretwell faced an uphill battle in placating small business owners and frustrated commuters who say the race cost them big. 

Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm acknowledged the view many in the local community currently hold on the race in her statement on Fretwell’s departure. 

“Betsy has played a critical role for us as we navigate the complexities of a race of this magnitude in Las Vegas. She has been instrumental in helping us set the table for a successful race this year,” said Wilm.

“In our inaugural year, my focus was intently on the establishment and operation of the race. I now intend to bring that same energy and attention to the Las Vegas community as a whole, this year and for years to come. We wish Betsy nothing but the best.”

The Race’s Future 

The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix got off to an inauspicious start, with negative comments from champion driver and eventual race winner Max Verstappen, and a flying manhole cover disrupting the first practice run.

However, on a sporting level, the actual race itself delivered a thrilling spectacle, and Las Vegas Strip casinos made tons of money. Which made many forget about the pre-race rumblings of local businesses and commuter disruptions. 

But not everyone was negative. Bureaucrats at Clark County were busy crunching the numbers until March, when they published their full debrief

The report revealed that the Las Vegas Grand Prix brought in $700 million in extra income for Sin City businesses, and $77 million in extra taxes.

A lot of that came from the luxury casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard, which did benefit from a massive boost in high limit baccarat play from well-heeled international jetsetters flying in for the race.

But given all its expenditure and the disruption, the county also concluded that it actually made a loss of around $500,000 on the weekend. 

Before the full debrief was released, a renewed race permit was granted for this year on a special event basis. However, with local opposition mounting, and now the departure of its relatively recently appointed COO, the return of the race in 2024 is far from a sure thing. 

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