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Indy speedway replaces stage following inspection

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A temporary outdoor stage set up to entertain race fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been replaced after it failed to meet new safety standards enacted by the state following last year's deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

State building inspectors rejected the privately built stage Thursday, four days before the Indianapolis 500, after speedway officials couldn't provide required technical documents, WTHR-TV reported.

"They were unable to provide the necessary engineering wind and weight load. The speedway was very cooperative. We told them it was noncompliant. They understood, brought in another stage that is totally compliant," said Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson.

Greeson said the speedway met the building and engineering standards even before they were made mandatory.

The new rules were adopted after seven people died and 58 were injured when high winds sent stage rigging plunging into a crowd of fans awaiting a concert by country duo Sugarland on Aug. 13.

The regulations also require each stage to be covered by an emergency response plan intended to get fans to safety before severe weather hits.

Under the speedway's plan, WTHR reports, banners and screens are brought down with winds gusting at 20 mph. At 40 mph, the speakers and canopy are lowered.

"There are tens of thousands of dollars of engineering analysis that were required to make sure we know mathematically the limits of that stage in a wind," said Kevin Forbes, the speedway's director of engineering. "At the same time, we are now moving people away. As the wind speeds pick up, they are moving people further and further away from the stage structure."

Forbes was involved in the creation of the new state rules. He said the plans include a clear chain of command to make sure decisions are made and carried out in an emergency.

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