Opinion and Editorials

EDITORIAL: Give Indianapolis Motor Speedway the tax break

February 16, 2013

Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s request for a special taxing district to help update the storied venue is such a slam dunk that it barely merits an editorial.

At least three solid reasons justify the trek by IMS officials to the Statehouse to seek legislation enabling IMS to capture as much as $5 million a year from state taxes to help fund a sweeping modernization.

• The sprawling facility needs extensive renovation and improvement, possibly more than IMS officials want to admit.

As IBJ reporter Anthony Schoettle writes in this week’s edition, the venue has deteriorated and in some regards slipped into obsolescence. Corporations are reluctant to associate their names with IMS, and Derek Daly, a former race car driver who hardly could be described as an enemy of the institution, went so far as to say, “The luster is gone…”

The venue needs lights to make night racing possible. It needs better seats, ticket gates and better accessibility. And we won’t even mention the warehouse the IMS calls a museum. NASCAR’s razzle-dazzle museum in Charlotte, N.C., is just one reflection of the energy pumped into that series compared to IndyCar.

While Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nowhere near the weed-infested expanse Tony Hulman rescued after World War II, the site needs a lot of work, and soon, in order to compete with sparkling facilities elsewhere.

• The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, perhaps more than anything else, is the city’s identity. In spite of hosting the Super Bowl, numerous NCAA Final Fours and quality professional sports teams, Indianapolis still is known for the track.

Travel elsewhere and tell someone you’re from Indianapolis, and the first thing out of their mouth is likely to be something like, “They have a race there, don’t they?” Not Peyton Manning and now Andrew Luck, but the icon that is IMS.

This is worth preserving. More, it’s worth making IMS the best again.

• This is the first time IMS has asked for a public handout.

The facility has operated nearly nonstop for more than 100 years, accruing big-time name recognition for the city and generating countless tourism dollars. The Hulman-George family has run the business like a business and for this the community has returned the favor with a deep reservoir of good will.

Yes, IMS should have invested more on improvements all along to avoid digging itself into this hole. But it’s under new management now, and offering a boost in a time of need isn’t too much to ask.

The outrage over the seemingly endless line of businesses marching to the doors of government demanding handouts is understandable. But many of those have little or no track record on which to base their requests.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has good will to spare. If any business can justify asking for help, it’s the IMS. With safeguards built in to protect the public, creating a taxing district to help the iconic venue should get the green flag.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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