After collecting more than 2,000 visitor surveys over the last two years, conducting focus groups and talking to city leaders, Visit Indy officials have determined they need to bring the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indianapolis 500 experience closer to downtown.
Many convention visitors and business travelers staying downtown want to experience the IMS—but don’t necessarily want to travel the four miles or so west to the track to do so, said Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops.
“IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are intrinsically linked with our brand, with Indy’s brand,” Hoops said. “We get a lot of feedback from a lot of convention visitors and business travelers that they would like some type of IMS attraction or experience downtown. [Visitors] want something that is more convenient to get to than the track. They want a 52-week-a-year experience downtown.”
Because downtown is so compact, many people coming to town for a convention or business meeting don’t have a car, local hospitality officials said, making it difficult to drive to the track.
Hoops met with Mark Miles, CEO of Speedway parent company Hulman & Co., on Tuesday to discuss the idea—in addition to other topics. Miles told IBJ Wednesday he is open to the idea.
Hoops announced the idea in front of 700-plus people at Visit Indy’s annual meeting at the Indiana Convention Center on Tuesday.
“It would be complicated for us,” said Miles, who pointed out that considerable upgrades are planned for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. “If it’s good for Indianapolis, we’d be happy to hear more and talk more about it.” The upgrade plans call for possibly doubling the current size on the infield of the track’s 2.5-mile oval.
Miles told IBJ that the Speedway’s museum board would have to be consulted on anything like this. The museum is a not-for-profit and is run by a separate board from the track and other Hulman & Co. assets.
“I don’t want to say it can’t work,” Miles said. “We definitely want to hear their ideas.”
Miles added that a downtown IMS-type outlet could help the Speedway, but added: “We just have to make sure it makes sense.”
No specific concepts have been floated yet, and Hoops said there are no details yet to divulge. But local hospitality officials said the attraction could include IndyCar race cars, videos and interactive exhibits. Other possible features could be ticket sales booths for IMS events and a pick-up and drop-off site for a shuttle connection to the Speedway itself.
“We want IMS officials to know this isn’t in any way an attempt to compete with the IMS Museum,” Hoops said. “We want to whet visitors’ appetites for a deeper experience at the track. We think there are great opportunities for cross promotions" between the track and downtown experience.
Possible locations for the attraction have not yet been identified nor has the cost or the funding source for the project, but Visit Indy officials said if the project makes sense for Visit Indy and the IMS it could open within two years. Miles called the idea “very, very preliminary.”
Going forward, Hoops said officials from his organization will be working with Alison Melangton, the former 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee CEO who now works on events for the Speedway, on the project.
“We have a laundry list of ideas to share with the IMS,” Hoops told IBJ, “and we’re looking forward to meeting and discussing those.”