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Speedway businesses eye gains from IMS upgrade

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As state Sen. Michael Young, R-Speedway, prepared to file a bill Monday to divert state tax revenue to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, nearby businesses were pondering how facility improvements could boost commerce in the town of 12,000 residents.

The rule of thumb is “anything that could help Indianapolis Motor Speedway will help local business,” said Connie Harris, executive director of the Speedway Chamber of Commerce.

Young’s bill would create a so-called Indiana Motorsports Investment District, capturing a portion of state sales, income and corporate taxes in and around the Speedway. The funds then would be invested as a portion of least $70 million in capital improvements at the facility. IMS would fund the remainder of the improvements.

These projects could include high-definition video boards, upgrades to seats and restrooms, structural renovations to the stands, and installing lights for night events.

Harris is intrigued by the latter, making possible evening events that could draw fans reluctant to sit in sweltering stands during typical day races.

Events added by IMS in recent years, such as the MotoGP motorcycle race, don’t draw as many fans as the Indianapolis 500 or the Brickyard 400. But they have an economic benefit to the community nevertheless, Harris said.

In 2011, the MotoGP drew 136,184 people over the three-day event—a fraction of the nearly 300,000 spectators estimated to attend the Indianapolis 500. But MotoGP “draws nice crowds,” Harris said. “Lights would open up a whole new realm of possibilities.”

Speculation as to what the Speedway would add as the result of facility improvements range from new races to concert events.
 
However, “our core business is auto racing. It will remain our core business,” said IMS spokesman Doug Boles.

IMS officials have been exploring the idea of installing lighting in part to extend races begun during the day but delayed because of inclement weather, Boles said.

Lighting also would allow for longer events, such as 24-hour endurance races. Such opportunities will be identified as part of a long-term master plan for the facility still underway, Boles added.

IMS officials on Feb. 8 announced Young’s intent to file the bill to create the investment district.

The request for government assistance marks a departure for the Hulman family, the longtime owners of the facility,  which historically has not asked for subsidies, even as the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts won large government financing packages to build their venues.

IMS officials emphasized the motorsports investment district would not affect the local school funding formula, because it would not be funded through property taxes collections.

The U.S. Justice Department and the IMS reached a settlement recently under which the Speedway agreed to make millions of dollars in improvements to make the facility more accessible to the handicapped

The Speedway Redevelopment Commission in recent years has been working on plans to revitalize several blocks along Main Street by the Speedway, including removing industrial blight and attracting new businesses.

Among the successes has been a new $2.7 million headquarters for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing on Main Street.

The commission also said it intends to acquire the International Village apartment complex, on the northwest end of Speedway, for redevelopment.

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  • It's a beard
    Fact is the Speedway has let it's facilities get into the condition it is in. Who's fault is that? And, why do they want taxpayers to pay for it? Any effort to mask this money grab by some "redevelopment" plan is pure and simple hooey. The speedway blew about $800 Million waging war to destroy AOW over the past 16 years...that's why they have no money to add video boards and night racing lights. Why should hard working tax payers have to prop up that mismanaged Private business? $70 MILLION, HUH? How come Tony Hulman didn't get the government to pay for it back in 1945? Just say NO Indiana.
  • Flushing money out of state
    The speedway is sounding over $20 million a year in payments to teams that run 15 races outside of Indiana. Diverting state funds to the track only let's the speedway continue to spend track revenue outside Indiana. Open up the books, show Indiana why revenues for 3 races cannot cover maintainence plus improvements. This is a farce
  • Same old story
    Socialize the risk, privatize the profits. Give 70 million to millionaires for luxury upgrades? No problem. But a poor guy trades some foods stamps for a 2 dollar bottle of malt liquor? CUT OFF THE WELFARE!!
  • Speedway deserves it
    The speedway for 100 years asked for nothing. Colts/Pacers ask for something every other year. Let the have money. It will be invested and not lining an owners pocket.
  • Bigger Picture
    A lot of folks tend to read into this action only things they perceive; e.g., lights so NASCAR can run at night. Whatever. Truth is in addition to facility upgrades, primarily to come into compliance with ADA standards (required, even though it will cost tens of millions), the action will cover a lot more, including gentrification of blighted areas that adjoin the track. In the piece above for example INJ says 'The Speedway Redevelopment Commission in recent years has been working on plans to revitalize several blocks along Main Street by the Speedway, including removing industrial blight and attracting new businesses.' That is smart business. If I were a legislator, I would provide incentives for businesses and individuals to buy and rebuild inside 465 instead of outside of it. There are far too many blighted areas of Indianapolis, and solutions other than fleeing to Fishers might lead to meaningful change.
  • Serious Blowback
    I think the Hulmans and IMS will get some serious blowback on this from the genreal public. The Hulman's begging for Corp. welfare while still not diclosing attendance and other perks for just being them. I think the GA will do some quick poling and find out the general public doesn't like this one and it will be real easy for this one to die in committee.

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