Steve, Google is your friend
So the theory of economic impact goes, but you want to talk about “sketchy”, try digging into the details. Again, I have no knowledge about this particular case except what I’ve just learned here, but it sounds like an actual check is written and that certainly doesn’t come from funds collected directly from a particular event. Very different then from a tax abatement, right? Here the city levies addional “tourism” taxes on hotels and such, is the money coming from something like that? In any case, however they are funded it seems extremely unlikely that the major event program can collect anywhere near $20M from revenues generated by a single F1 weekend. But as I said, it’s never anywhere near that straightforward.
I have a decent amount of knowledge on this issue in part because I was part of the original design (engineering) team on COTA and more generally because I’ve been on the design team of well over 100 major sports and events projects around the USA. I’ve read dozens of the project economic impact prediction reports, and have been around after the project to see what actually happens after opening. You are correct, “it’s never anywhere near that straightforward”.
It’s wildly simplistic for anyone to say that public money should not be part of private endeavors. Nearly every city and state is very actively engaged in private public partnerships. This is how many projects get build, including toll roadways, courthouses, entertainment facilities, city hospitals, and many other elements. Without these partnerships these projects would not exist.