As the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway approaches,
the town of Speedway, at long last, is making an aggressive play to turn the world-famous oval into an economic engine that
Better late than never.
In hindsight, it’s hard to fathom why the town took so long to press the advantage
of having in its midst a racetrack that hosts two of the best-attended single-day sporting events in the world. What’s important
now is that the wheels are turning and the Speedway Redevelopment Commission is working with IMS brass on a plan that could
make tourism the biggest industry in the awakening west-side town.
As reported in IBJ last week, the two parties are negotiating to move the Hall of
Fame museum from the track infield to a
spot south of the track along a relocated 16th Street. IMS officials also hope to develop a flagship hotel to replace the
45-year-old Brickyard Crossing Inn.
Both projects would add fuel to the redevelopment commission’s broader plan to create a retail and entertainment district
to the south and west of the racetrack and along Speedway’s Main Street, which for decades has seen limited economic activity
despite the presence of the racing behemoth a block away.
The so-called Speed Zone is estimated to cost up to $500 million in public and private funds, and the cost could shoot higher
once more is known about exactly what will be built. The plan requires significant reinvestment in infrastructure, including
relocating 16th Street to the south, closing Georgetown Road south of 25th Street to create a pedestrian zone, and constructing
two multilane roundabouts.
Among the funding mechanisms expected to contribute to the project is a 350-acre tax-increment financing district. Growth
in property tax revenue in the district will be set aside to repay bonds the town sells to fund the infrastructure work.
Some might question if it’s appropriate for the town of Speedway to commit taxpayer money to such an expensive project.
The answer is yes, for a couple of reasons.
We’ve seen over the course of the last 50 years what happens if there’s no public investment: empty storefronts on Main Street
and underdeveloped real estate across the street from the track. Though fans flood into Speedway for the Indianapolis 500
and Brickyard 400, the rest of the year the town’s namesake track might best be described as the greatest spectacle in missed
And there’s this: The IMS is self-sustaining. Unlike most other professional sports ventures, it doesn’t need or ask for public
This is a case of the town of Speedway’s finally investing in itself. The redevelopment commission has identified the prize,
and IMS seems to be along for the ride. We hope neither side lets up until they cross the finish line.
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