by Michael Lowrey
Extremely interesting column in the Indianapolis Business Journal on the need — and cost — of updating the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some highlights:
“They have to do something,” said Paul Henry, a 58-year-old Indianapolis resident who’s been to every Indianapolis 500 since 1968. “The facility is dated and it has become a turn-off. There are not a lot of attractions for what I’d call the casual race fans.”
Bloomington resident and longtime race fan Jeffrey Henderson, 46, called the track’s amenities rudimentary.
“What opened my eyes was the new track in Austin,” said Henderson, the principal at Bloomington North High School. “A state-of-the-art facility like that shines a light on just how much work needs to be done at the [IMS].”
The Speedway’s corporate constituents were crueler in their appraisal.
One racing industry executive called the IMS’ condition “horrendous.” An executive with one of the IndyCar Series’ corporate partners said that on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best sports facility, “the Speedway would get a three.”
Estimated cost of updating IMS? At least $140 million, and that may very well not be anywhere near enough. And all that money won’t necessarily translate into growing the fan and advertiser base; it’s as much as anything else about keeping what one already has.
The reality is that racing is a sport in decline in the U.S. Going forward, NASCAR and IndyCar may well not need all the ovals that currently exist — the question is just which facilities does it make sense to upgrade and keep, and which will go away.