St. Patrick’s Day 2011 may have been the most crowded that I have ever seen downtown. With SXSW music in full force, a packed free concert for the Strokes at Auditorium Shores, and a steady stream of locals headed downtown to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, downtown was absolutely crazy.
This year’s SXSW music festival packed downtown with 13,000 paid attendees. The interactive festival attracted just over 19,000 paid attendees. In 2012, it’s expected the first Formula One race in Austin could attract as many as 300,000 attendees.
If you think downtown was crowded this week, what will happen when 20x the number of people appear at one place for the first race? While good for the economy, the traffic will likely set new Austin records.
Another issue remains hotel rooms. Today, the City has 29,378 hotel rooms in the City Limits. To hold SXSW attendees, the festival organizers contracted with 73 hotels. When they were full, they scrambled to find another 400+ rooms in the region.
While crazy, downtown was also the most alive that I have ever seen it. It provided a clear vision of the life that a few thousand more downtown residents could bring to downtown, and the inevitable restaurants, retails, bars, and offices that would follow to support the new crowds. As people continue to flock to the region and Austin events get bigger and bigger, there will inevitably be more busy nights downtown.