The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

Indians, Pacers, IMS celebrating, while Lucas Oil Raceway takes hit

July 6, 2011
KEYWORDS Sports Business

While I don’t usually do grab bag blog posts, it’s a big day for sports in Indianapolis, and there are a number of things to cover.

First, the Indiana Pacers are holding a press conference today to announce that Frank Vogel will be the team’s new head coach. The only real surprise is that it took so long to take the interim tag from Vogel’s title.

Vogel went 20-18 as head man after taking over for Jim O’Brien in the middle of last season. The players and fans connected with Vogel, and though he lacks head coaching experience, Pacers’ basketball operations boss Larry Bird has assembled an experienced group of assistants.

It’s unfortunate that the announcement is being made in the midst of what figures to be a lengthy NBA lockout. Usually an NBA franchise would launch a marketing campaign or ticket sales push in the wake of a new coaching announcement. But that will be made difficult due to the lockout.

Out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this afternoon, track officials are expected to announce the addition of NASCAR Nationwide and Grand-Am Rolex Series races to the Brickyard 400 weekend in 2012.

The Nationwide race, which has previously been held at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park), will be held Saturday afternoon with the three-hour Grand-Am race being held Friday afternoon.

The events are being held to give added value to Brickyard 400 fans, and it should be a nice revenue driver for the IMS. But it comes at the expense of LOR. There is discussion that LOR will get another NASCAR race at some point, but that deal hasn’t been finalized.

Ironically, this year marks the 30th anniversary for the Nationwide race at Lucas Oil Raceway, which is situated in Clermont, to the west of the IMS.

Lucas Oil Raceway will not only lose its Nationwide race, but it’s NASCAR truck race as well. That event, sources told IBJ, will no longer be held in Indianapolis during the Brickyard 400 weekend.

“I can’t comment on the financial loss, but obviously it’s a big weekend for us,” said LOR spokesman Scott Smith. “Right now, we’re focused on making this year’s race the best ever.”

LOR officials made it clear they thought the intimate setting of their facility is better for the event than the cavernous IMS.

Despite the loss of the event to the Speedway, Smith doesn’t think it will hurt the working relationship of the two tracks.

“We’ve worked with the Speedway a lot in the past, and I don’t think that will change going forward,” Smith said.

While Smith said LOR’s 2012 schedule hasn’t been worked out, he does expect the track to host races in conjunction with next year’s Brickyard 400.

While LOR is licking its wounds, the Indianapolis Indians are celebrating a successful first half of their season.

Following Monday’s sold out game against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Indians’ season attendance is tracking 5.6 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

Through 41 home dates played this season the Indians have drawn a total of 313,175 fans compared to 296,673 through the same number of dates last season.

The July 4 crowd of 14,333 was the Indians second sellout in as many weeks as the Tribe drew a standing-room-only crowd of 14,481 on June 24. Monday’s sellout also marked the 44th in Victory Field history.

Over the past 19 home games the Indians have averaged 10,184 fans per game. The Indians have also drawn 101,786 fans over the past nine games for an average of 11,310 per game.

The Indians’ attendance increased from 549,552 in 2009 to 569,969 in 2010, and the team could be headed toward 600,000 this season as attendance usually rises throughout the summer.

The Indians record attendance was 658,250 in 1999.

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