Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

June 11, 2014

Three Days Before the Indianapolis 500 Revisited

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:12 pm

EagledaleFrequent readers are well aware of concerns about the upkeep of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the sad deterioration of neighborhoods on three sides of the track, where property values are sinking and crime is rising. Areas once populated by hard working, mostly blue collar middle class who took pride in their modest dwellings, kept lawns mowed and weeded and knew how to use products like paint and Lysol have been supplanted by folks who no longer care about anything, especially the condition of their properties. Let’s face it. As a proud native Hoosier I am comfortable pointing a critical finger at what being a native Hoosier means. Regardless of your stature, income or position in society being a Hoosier is sort of like a twisted version of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. You are never really that distant from trailer parks, early death by deep fried food, abuse of methamphetamines or significant orthodontics issues. You believe Miss Indiana, widely derided as chunky, is one of the most beautiful women on earth. None of this is bad. It is what most people refer to as salt of the earth.

Societal change was on display this past May when areas around the track, especially the Coke lot, become the temporary home of tens of thousands of racing fans and month of May revelers out to have a great time. In the weeks that followed one of the best attended Mays in recent memory stories of serious crime not typical of average Mays have been leaking out. We are all aware of specific types of shootings that occurred, but there was also a significant rise in theft, robbery and other felonies well documented by victims.

Coke LotPeople seem timid to discuss the crimes or their cause. In some ways that is understandable. There has always been mischief especially the night before the race. During my annual Coke lot/Georgetown walk this year the hard working members of law enforcement were earning their money dealing with drunks, fighters and alcohol-saturated young ladies behaving in delightfully lewd and lascivious ways. No one had to walk further than a block to observe the mostly youthful behavior. The vast majority of folks partying there are there because they have at least inklings there is a big race they may well be sober enough to attend. It is usually a joyous combination of Woodstock, Mardi Gras and Rio Carnival.

Those of us who no longer drink to get drunk (mostly due to age and bladders) still enjoy the revelry for sure, but mostly as casual observers and not direct participants. There are folks who establish campsites in roughly the same spots every May. The camaraderie and friendships that have occurred over time are deeply cherished. In recent years the area has been increasingly visited by those whose presence is completely out of place. They are not difficult to spot. These individuals are not there to party; they are there to prey.

Imagine what you might think if you visited the Indianapolis Zoo and observed gorillas frolicking inside the polar bear exhibit. Would it not be natural to assume something was amiss? So in addition to controlling hijinks of the usual over exuberant revelers the cops now have to deal with non-racing fans whose primary experience and expertise is committing felonious acts. It is not difficult to pick them out of the crowd.

The touchy issue is how to deal with it proactively. Society does not allow exclusion or even strong suggestions such folks should find a spot somewhere on the other side of a county. Ideas about fencing in the Coke lot or Law Enforcementrequiring ID bands or some other form of registration have merit, but would that justify the massive bureaucracy or cost that would result? Equally unpractical would be encouraging defense of your campsite. No one wants thousands of armed citizens. That is definitely NOT a good idea given the amount of alcohol.

The people who deserve the biggest pats on the back are the members of law enforcement who give up their time to deal with mostly obnoxious people. They are keenly aware of who belongs in the area and who does not. Best approach: Give them significant leeway to determine who stays and who goes, much like they have with drunks and shirtless cursing fighters.

The month of May in Indy, and especially the three days before the big race, is worth defending and enriching. Racing fans should never be scared away by thugs.

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6 Comments »

  1. If I’m reading this post correctly, Disciple, you’re basically ranting about how you (a) dislike black people and (b) don’t think that they’re the “right sort” to be enjoying motor racing?
    Nice… Very nice…
    Editor’s Note: Fortunately, you are not reading the blog correctly. We do not need racism here and the conclusions to which you leap remind us that the reading comprehension skills of the audience should be strengthened.

    Comment by Andrew — June 12, 2014 @ 9:28 am | Reply

  2. those thugs mugshots reely looked liek those orangutans doing the bunny hop dance behind the pigoda i bet they were the same ones. they wernt there for the irl. they weer there for the white wimmens.
    Editor’s Note: Memo to Andrew…what I wrote was not racist. If you want to see racist this comment should meet your expectations.

    Comment by jonny rebel — June 13, 2014 @ 10:29 am | Reply

  3. This is the result of the neglect of IMS that happened because they spent hundreds of millions keeping the IRL afloat. IMS became a craphole as did the shopping center they owned across the street along with the motel, etc. Had they invested in infrastructure, the neighborhood around them might be a little nicer.
    Editor’s Note: So in addition to being knowledgeable of the finances of a closely held private company you are also an urban planning specialist. I stand in awe of your prowess and the professional way in which you disseminate your vast knowledge.

    Comment by TroyM — June 14, 2014 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

  4. The IMS has been deteriorating for years. Only the dishonest would ever suggest that its decline has either occurred or accelerated as a result of Mari Hulman’s intervention into the leadership of the operation.
    Editor’s Note: Tony George did an admirable job of maintaining the physical plant and making consistent improvements annually. Examples: Pagoda, F-1 course and garages, replacement of all the infield stands, etc. He was on record as saying the place ate money every day. But, like his grandfather, he ensured profit was reinvested in the physical plant. That meticulous approach was shelved the moment Jeff Belskus was placed in charge. Now they are are spending more money than they would have trying to catch up. The anti-George sentiment is not unusual, particularly for Internet experts who do not go there.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — June 15, 2014 @ 6:58 pm | Reply

  5. Then why did the “consistent improvements annually” never include the restrooms or concession facilities, which were either deplorable or hopelessly outdated? Sadly, he ignored both for years.
    Editor’s Note: Incorrect. Several old cinderblock restrooms were actually replaced with new ones during his tenure (inside turn 1, pagoda plaza, etc.). Women’s legacy restrooms have been updated a few times. In the older men’s trough-style johns the plumbing never leaked (although no one has ever had a problem walking around in spilled pee if that’s their thing) and many have received paint. After George’s departure is when actual maintenance stopped; e.g., leaky plumbing adjacent to the highest dollar seats, lack of paint, etc. The restrooms have always been easy targets for critics because they are not anywhere near frilly. I never eat anything likely to shoot from my colon while I’m there, and always carry Immodium just in case. Just the occasional pee for me and I’m OK with that unless it runs back out of a cracked pipe onto my shoes. In short, the restrooms (except the ones that leak) are pretty low on the priority list.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — June 16, 2014 @ 4:44 pm | Reply

    • And that is the problem, not only with IMS, but a lot of motorsports venues in general.

      Compared to the vast majority of sports stadiums and arenas in widespread use these days, even basic creature comforts are seriously lacking at race tracks.

      To some extent, the overall condition of IMS may get portrayed in a more negative light than it deserves; quite a few tracks that host major events are behind the times, compared to current baseball, football, and basketball venues.

      This doesn’t absolve IMS for what would be unacceptable conditions anywhere else; in fact, given the financial resources that were available to IMS ( at least through to recent times) conditions should never have deteriorated to the extent that they have.

      And yes, I’ve been there. The last racing event I attended there was the F1 race, the year after the tire fiasco. And until recently, I traveled to the Indianapolis area several times a year for work at a pharmaceutical company located there. Almost every time there I’d at least go to the museum. The parking lot is in terrible condition, and the museum could use a significant upgrading. The rust and general decay visible in the stands is not a comforting site.

      Items such as the bathrooms make a huge impression on the casual fans; and those are the potential new fans needed to start a new growth spurt. You can’t discount or dismiss their ( bathroom) conditions just because it doesn’t bother you.

      This isn’t a rant to rag on IMS; anyone that’s a fan of racing in general should visit there if they get a chance. It’s always a good thing to take in a historic and storied venues to try to get some sense of history; places such as Annapolis, West Point, Gettysburg, Ground Zero in NYC can connect us with our past, and sports venues, and the events that have taken place in them are a part of our history as well.

      It’s a shame that IMS has the issues it now has, but that has to be squarely laid at the feet of the Hulman George family. More than team owners, drivers, and disaffected fans, it is they that have presided over the facility, and it is they that deserve the blame.

      Comment by Skeptical1 — June 17, 2014 @ 12:08 am | Reply


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