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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

Renovated Speedrome racing to finish line of banner year

September 20, 2017
KEYWORDS Sports Business

After a slew of improvements to the facility, the 76-year-old Indianapolis Speedrome is approaching the finish line of what track officials are calling a banner year.

Speedrome attendance this year is double what it has been in recent years, and race participation is up more than 20 percent, according to Jonathan Byrd II, the track’s president. Concession revenue is twice what it was last year, he added.

The season got off to a fast start on April 1 with a near-sellout in the 6,000-capacity facility. The historic east-side short track track is averaging more than 2,000 fans per race date, Byrd said, with more than 80 cars (on average) showing up to race across five divisions.

On three occasions this year, more than 100 cars raced, including on Sept. 9, the night of the Figure 8 World Championships. The race drew 112 competitors and a standing-room-only crowd of more than 5,000, according to Byrd.

“That’s the largest crowd this track has had in a couple of decades,” said Byrd, who became president late last year when Kevin Garrigus bought the track.

Garrigus made more than $500,000 in improvements to the track leading up to its opening this year. These included adding 560 stadium-style seats along the front stretch and bleachers in the third turn (both replaced metal folding chairs); improved ADA-accessible seating; installed a new sound system; improved the track’s payment system (which now accepts credit cards at every ticket window and concession stand); and remodeled bathrooms.

Garrigus also repaved the oval and figure-8 tracks and expanded the pit area, built a larger winner’s circle just outside the racetrack, and remodeled the pit/racing office, which now has central air and new lighting.

Garrigus repainted infrastructure, erected new fencing throughout, rewired the venue with wires buried underground, and added signage, including a 60-foot banner at the southwest entrance, as well as new flags encircling the track. He also removed refuse and cut down overgrowth, especially on the south and west sides of the venue, giving it room for expansion.

Byrd (from the Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria family), meanwhile, took all concession operations in-house. Six additional security guards—to a total of eight—were on duty during races “to assure a safe environment for families,” Garrigus said. For the track’s biggest events, 12 security guards were on hand.

“We had very few incidents and a very family-friendly environment, which we think has been one of the keys to our success this year,” Byrd told IBJ on Wednesday.

The Speedrome also got a boost from the weather.

“We haven’t had a single rain-out, with really fantastic weather, Byrd said.

The track will bring in more than enough revenue to meet operating expenses this year, Byrd said, with a goal of paying off the recent capital expenses within three years.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback this year,” Byrd said. “People, racers and fans, are really loving what we’re doing here.”

Byrd hopes to parlay that into a handful of new sponsors for the track this off-season.

“We’re looking to make a major marketing push in 2018 and beyond,” Byrd said. “As part of that we’re looking for some new sponsors. We’ve already started several conversations on potential corporate sponsorships. Now that we’ve really got this up and rolling, we think we have a lot to offer.”

The Speedrome’s season concludes Nov. 12.

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