Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

July 10, 2013

The Person With A Big (Maybe The Biggest) Challenge at Indy: Doug Boles

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:45 pm

Who MeOne of the most challenging jobs any one person could possibly take on might be President of IMS. If you are not related to someone of Hulman lineage it would no doubt be even more difficult. That is the challenge facing Doug Boles today. It is not as if he is not up for the challenge. He has been rising through those ranks for a few years and has been running a good portion of the show through these various transitional periods. He appears to ‘get’ IMS, its place in history and where it needs to go.

Perhaps the most important component of his new job from a track legacy point of view is the portion of the description that includes the word ‘facilities.’ That encompasses a lot and is loaded. IMS is 104 years old and is showing its age. Boles has to worry not only about ADA compliance but making the grounds a destination for more than motorsports, and always with a goal of selling the most tickets possible for the big motorsports activities held there.

After Tony Hulman rescued IMS from the brink of non-existence in 1946 each subsequent year was spent improving the facility in some small (and occasionally large) way year after year. That was the mantra. Make the place better during the next year than it was in the preceding year. That philosophy was engrained. Tony Hulman and most members of his family got it. Clarence Cagle got it. Joe Cloutier got it. Everyone who ever worked there got it. Hulman’s grandson Tony George got it. Perhaps too much. When you compare the condition of the place when Hulman took over with what we enjoyed into the decade of the late 2000’s the evolution is stunning. Tony George gets a lot of grief for his perceived extravagances but could a new state of the art control tower NOT be shaped like a giant pagoda? How could one place stage the biggest motor race known to man, a prestigious NASCAR event, a successful Formula One run and one of the biggest events on the two-wheeler schedule? But it has.

Anchor LOLPart of Doug’s current challenge is location. When IMS was built the track location was out in the middle of nowhere. It pretty much stayed that way until after WWII. With post-war prosperity came neighborhoods of quickly built factory homes for young families and their baby booming activities on most sides of the track. That worked out delightfully until the late 1980s and early 1990s when population demography shifted radically. In Indy the middle class migrated outside the 465 loop to places like Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville, west toward Avon and beyond or south down Greenwood way. The result has not done wonders for IMS. The city can put all the fancy medians they want down the middle of Westside thoroughfares such as Crawfordsville Road or 38th Street but it will not change pervasive decay eating away at either side of the main drags. 38th Street is essentially a blighted ghost town from 465 to 65. The once great Lafayette Square has become a crime-infested wasteland that is dangerous during even daylight hours. Honda West became the last major new car dealer to flee just this month. The entire length is littered with abandoned buildings that once housed national brands for shopping and commerce. Crawfordsville Road is a good place to get a payday loan, fast food, liquor or tobacco but is it something that complements the historic palace down the street? How can Boles and crew effectively enhance a facility that sits in the midst of areas that increasingly resemble urban Detroit?

Welcome to IMSThe town of Speedway and the state of Indiana have been embarking on meaningful gentrification of Speedway for ten years, and their efforts have begun to pay off. The Main Street redevelopment just outside the main gate is quite impressive, and that process is still relatively young. There is opposition in many cases; e.g., mere mention of closing Georgetown Road permanently draws cackles and howls of protest. Many residents are suspicious of IMS as adjoining property gets purchased, structures destroyed and unkept vacant lots increasingly dot the area.

Speedway redevelopment does not seem to address ghetto neighborhoods that now plague the vicinity. Most of the post-war houses are falling apart. The middle class who meticulously looked after their piece of the dream either died off or fled. There are a few diehards (like me) who still meticulously maintain properties in the immediate area of the track (outside turn 4 for me), but that seems like a losing battle much of the time.

Welcome to IMS 2What happens outside the track is almost as important as what happens inside it. Boles and crew can only directly control land and structures they own. What they must consider would keep most in a state of long term insomnia. They need to begin inside their own gates. Re-galvanizing sections of stands annually is necessary, but visitors don’t really notice anything except shiny iron next to rusty iron. Visitors DO notice weed-infested, un-mowed grounds. And broken, cracked, missing pavement in the museum parking lot. And litter. And giant cracks (complete with weeds) in sidewalks along pit road. And video monitors that outlived their usefulness around the time VHS became passé. And someone else’s urine (or worse) that drips from cracked pipes attached to troughs in cinder block restrooms.

Human nature being what it is you might actually believe your own house is clean and well-kept but visitors may believe they have entered a pigsty and are too polite to say anything. IMS is too personally important for politeness. There are so many small, basic things that need to be done immediately that any grand plans are not really important at the moment. How difficult is it to keep weeds out, grass mowed, stands and structures shiny and pavement unbroken? Meticulous attention to that kind of detail, Penske style, is necessary. Boles and crew must see the place as outsiders would.

Longer term? Here are a few suggestions. Race fans tend to reflect most of society. They are fatter and take up a lot more room these days. It is just as easy for most these days to plant their bulbous arses on an oversized sofa in air conditioning facing a 60-inch HDTV with all the junk food they can inhale. It takes actual work for most to travel to any entertainment offering much less an auto race. Every step of their journey must be made easy. Once they get inside they need to be kept comfy. Aluminum slabs with seat numbering far too close together (not to mention rows) will no longer get the job done. Take rows out of every stand and increase the leg room. Add a minimum of 6 inches to the width of seats. Start the stands in the turns higher up. Get rid of metal folding chairs wherever they currently exist. What Pocono did with many of their aluminum benches is ingenious. Plastic seats with backs were permanently attached and were spaced to accommodate normal sized people. Consider building condos in the area occupying now removed Northeast Vista seating at the end of the backstretch. Give fans something tangible for the increased prices they are now paying for tickets.

Another Boles challenge? Finding the funding to pull it off. Several now in charge of things but mostly Jeff Belskus have a reputation of bean counting. Fiscally tight to the point where Belskus could swallow coal and defacate diamonds. Sooner or later the purse strings must be loosened for facilities improvement, or there may not be a facility to improve. IMS has fallen woefully behind just about every other big time track in terms of amenities and appearance.  Boles needs to ensure the track regains its traditional pack leader position. It must start today.

Doug Boles is a good guy who gets the history and is not shy about asking questions of others. In the event he needs input from those who have always been passionate about the place and spend an inordinate amount of money there are a few of us willing to help. He has my best wishes and support.

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6 Comments »

  1. He will need it. All the problems won’t go away overnight. Time is needed and a lot of fences need to be mended. Best of luck to him. He is going to need it. It takes money to do all the for mentioned. Hope they allow him to us it wisely.

    Comment by oldwrench — July 10, 2013 @ 7:50 pm | Reply

  2. I completely agree that FAILURE to upgrade IMS will continue to erode the live gate. Some of the things you mention, particularly the plumbing/sanitation issues need to be resolved YESTERDAY. The ADA issues are ones that while, necessary, will not add significantly to the fan perception of IMS, but you can bet your hind quarters that if my wife isn’t happy with the bathrooms, she ain’t coming back. And speaking of not coming back, the days of selling 250,000 aluminum bleacher seats aren’t coming back either. Better to (as you suggested) enlarge the seats and eliminate rows to enhance the experience for those who ARE willing to spend the increased ticket price. Fact is, the re-done for F-1 tower terrace has taken what used to be excellent Paddock seats and made them quite ordinary, and much less worthy of a $90 price tag, let alone the new price.. Couple that with a PA system that probably dates back to the last century, video boards that have not kept up with current technology and even a guy like me who loves the race can think of ample reasons not to make the trek to Indy, pay a huge hotel tab (or stay in Anderson), and generally run through a $1000 weekend. All this and to have to hitch the pant legs up to keep from stepping in pee? Sorry.

    That is not to say that I may not come back at some point in time, but you can bet that it will NOT be with my wife and it will be only if I can score some penthouse ducats. And have a better travel plan than parking downtown and riding for two hours on a bus (each way) which may or may not have functional air conditioning (this is NOT the Speedway’s problem, but one that needs to be addressed. Some folks just do not want to take their cars out into the “Speedway Triangle” and have to deal with drunks and traffic immediately after the race. )

    Comment by SkipinSC — July 10, 2013 @ 10:02 pm | Reply

  3. Dear Lord, this is getting bad, real bad. Seems even the strongest of IMS/IRL/Hulmanista apologists (even Derek Daly?) are seeing the ugly light at the end of the tunnel. Say, did you hear that the family threatened to just shut the place down if they didn’t get their TIF money? That’s the story I am hearing, along with the “nobody else in line to buy the place” story that you know is true. hope you’re feeling OK there D, your buddies at illiteratewagon miss you. :smooch:
    Editor’s Note: What most of you kids ‘hear’ are commonly referred to as hallucinations. In your case probably the result of substance abuse. I’ll start to believe these nutjob prophecies once they actually start coming to pass. LOL.

    Comment by youowemeabeerasshole — July 11, 2013 @ 6:29 pm | Reply

    • Really? Told you the series would falter with tony in charge, with spec cars, with “its all about indy”, with that stupid “car” thing they have this year. No one cares, no one watches, and soon, no one will buy tickets. Because there wont be any. Enjoy our delsuions, or did uou forget what you just wrote?
      Editor’s Note: What I wrote was free advice for Doug Boles about mowing the grass and keeping IMS pristine. What I did not write was overarching doom, anything about Tony George, spec cars, or any other hysterical topic the children of the cart screech about. You imbeciles have been wrong for the past 18 straight years. Why should anyone believe the wolf is around the corner? Why don’t you kids go on back to your treehouse and practice your cussing?

      Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — July 12, 2013 @ 1:26 am | Reply

      • well isn’t that quaint? Jeebus you are one dumb f#%$@*g gomer. patch the track, lick my back, toss the crack, Mindy going down like a prom dress. in 2 years the city or state will be in “partnership” with the 16th street dump trying to “re-purpose” the real estate. As you say “surrounded by ghettos. lol. suck it gomers
        Editor’s Note: Keep sharing your alcohol-induced hallucinations and unfettered maturity. It is a source of amusement for those of us who enjoy watching unevolved zoo animals in action.

        Comment by youowemeabeerasshole — July 14, 2013 @ 4:42 am

  4. Doesn’t really matter if 7k or 30k showed up…The fact that they’re happy with p*ss poor attendance numbers and minuscule TV ratings says it all. Just grasping at straws. Continually being punched in the face and embarrassed, then declaring victory doesn’t change a thing…
    Editor’s Note: What does this strange, repetitive commentary have to do with Doug Boles?

    Comment by Marion County Limousine Liberal — July 11, 2013 @ 11:29 pm | Reply


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