The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has passed its 100th birthday and is gearing up for the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in May of 2016. Part of the ramp-up leading to what will no doubt be a grand celebration is a gentrification of not only a large portion of Speedway, Indiana but IMS as well. In addition to money the Hulman-Georges may cough up the track management also has a $100 million loan fund at their disposal from taxpayers in the area. There is a lot they can do.
The Speedway and its management have a web form on which they accept fan feedback, but in typical IMS/IndyCar technical fashion the site is relatively difficult to find (for those without necessary patience it is: http://www.imsproject100.com/index.php/fan-feedback/) and not really fancy. Personally, having contributed, it would be nice to both receive acknowledgement they received the idea and provide an ability to view the ideas of other racing fans that have contributed.
It is easy for those of us who genuinely respect the long history and mystique of the place to espouse a smart, back-to-basics approach not only for enhancement of the plant but the IndyCar product as well. Some of the artist renderings seem to point toward an ill-advised conversion of the most important racing temple on earth into some sort of garish whorehouse with all sorts of diversions to draw in an increasingly ADD-like population and grab their money.
IMS does not really need ferris wheels, carnival midways or any other form of brand dilution. What does it need? Comfortable places for fans to sit, preferably out of direct sunlight and not completely exposed to the elements. For fans that are mobility challenged, ADA compliance that allows them to get anywhere any able bodied person can. Bathrooms that are not oversized, putrid petri dishes complete with raw sewage leaking from rusted through pipes. A truly world class museum on the scale of the one Barber Motorsports Park built. The ability to buy one drink that costs less than a 12-pack of the same drink in a grocery store particularly now that the irrational, overreaction panic wave over the threat of terrorism has put the kebosh on the fan friendly history of being able to tote large coolers. Fans want to be able to get into the track in time to at least watch Gomer sing, and be able to leave to get home in a reasonable time frame. It would be nice for every yellow shirt to tip their hat instead of screaming or blowing a whistle into someone’s ear. Grass needs to be cut and weeds need to be pulled on a schedule that matches someone with a well maintained yard. Fix the cracks and holes in sidewalks and pavement. These things combined do not approach $100 million.
Back to basics with the brand means just that. What made the 500 legendary? The notion that IMS was a proving ground for all sorts of cutting edge automotive technologies. That combined with sheer bravery and an inherent desire to go faster than everyone else drew the fans. ‘Little guy’ stories have always been intriguing. Most of that has been lost in a swirl of spec, and even fans on opposite sides of the cultural divide that has plagued IndyCar for nearly forty years tend to agree on a loosened approach to technology. We all know the racing is second to none but that only gets us so far. Spend money to explore where it will lead in the future.
The single most difficult part of spending hundreds of millions is keeping the mystique intact. That place and its spirits speak to folks that enter and it should never be allowed to become ‘just another track.’ Boles and crew need foresight and luck, and they need to channel the spirit of Tony Hulman to do what is right without making him or any of the legendary characters who built the place over the years turn in their graves.