Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

February 9, 2013

Gentrification of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway With Public Money

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:47 pm

Grand SiteThe big news this week of the offseason is a decision by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to request state aid for funding modernization improvements at the 104-year-old facility. Long time admirers of the track and its ownership have been proud of the fact that IMS says it has never, ever accepted any sort of public money for anything at IMS. Presumably IMS did not want to become beholden on anyone other than themselves. They even turned down $25 million dollars from the state a few years ago to keep Formula One at the track.

In this time and place, however, things are different. Hell has frozen over. IMS is desperately in need of improvement. This need has become profound since Tony George, the last philosophical link to Tony Hulman, was forced out. Those who succeeded George have allowed the type of quality maintenance that was standard in the past to become an afterthought today. Throughout the facility degeneration is obvious, from a museum parking lot that is falling apart to foot bridges on IMS land that are literally rotting away to now antique scoring and video structures that are relentlessly rusting away.

Add to that a ruling that IMS is woefully deficient in adherence to ADA standards, and they are looking at expenditures in the hundreds of millions. Mandatory improvements must be made, and there is no choice.

Old timers may have problems with this change in philosophy, and it is easy to understand why. How much money are we talking about? Essentially it is a $100 million bond, and IMS is on the hook for $2 million annually. The state contributes $5 million annually, property taxes will not be used, and presumably no new taxes will be assessed.

The SpeedwayThe expenditure is couched in phrases such as ‘Indiana Motorsports Investment District.’ It is actually a smart idea, and hopefully the money will not be limited to inside the tunnels. Three of the four sides around the track contain neighborhoods that have either become ghettos or dilapidated, economically distressed and/or vacant properties. 38th Street near the track is a ghost town, and the once vibrant Lafayette Square Mall is now nothing more than shells of vacant and long departed anchors.  Folks usually do not go there unless they are armed.  One of the last 38th Street holdouts, Honda West, is moving to Fishers once spring rolls around.

Speedway redevelopment is going better than expected, but that sort of gentrification is absolutely essential for miles around the track to make it the showplace envisioned. Justification for such funding is actually very easy. Two years ago the Fiscal Times reported a $336 million economic impact annually for Indiana from the 500 alone. That is greater than either the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl, according to Strategic Media Worldwide. Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly reported in 2011 that Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 contribute more than $727 million to Indiana’s economy.  Annually IMS contributes north of one billion dollars of economic impact to the state and countless jobs that pay more than the average. The $336 million for the 500 is more than four times the $104 million economic of the Indianapolis Colts, according to statistics from Purdue University. Two Colts stadiums and Conseco were both almost entirely financed using public money, and that is the norm instead of the exception nationwide.

Predictably, howls of protest will be heard from those whose mission in life seems to be portraying the institution that made the entire sport possible as destitute and hypocritical. That will not really change the ignorance, immaturity or outright stupidity that typifies the obsessed, lunatic railing of such gadflies.

It will be interesting watching the metamorphosis of the grand old facility. From a practical standpoint and given attendance challenges, a really nice suggestion might be to work toward accommodation of the average sized racing fan, which is to say make the seats wider and deeper.

Let us hope the money is spent wisely and with the continuous renewal theme that stretched from Tony Hulman to Tony George.



  1. OK, Defender, this one got me off my dead retired ass to put together a blog of my own. (I’m about a third of the way through.) Many of the things you mention are part of mine as well, but the biggest impact as I see it is lights. Looks to me like it won’t be long before television dictates that both major events at IMS be run in prime time. In other times, that very idea would have been unthinkable, at least in the case of the 500, but these are different times. If, as you say the whole area around the track has become untenable, then I think lights become an even WORSE idea. I can’t think of much that would be worse than a bunch of highly intoxicated NASCAR fans meeting up with gang bangers. (I haven’t been there since 2011, and there was so much construction when I was there that I really didn’t notice the area, other than the boutique-y stuff south of 16th St.) Maybe the Brickyard should move more into the fall and be part of the “Chase.”

    Comment by SkipinSC — February 9, 2013 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

  2. Tony George was thrown out less than 4 years ago. Scoring and video structures that are rusting away and many other problems didn’t just happen since Tony was tossed. Tony should have been updating the track before he was tossed. Instead he was spending tens of millions of dollars a year on a money losing racing series, and who knows how much money to build the Pagoda and the improvements to accomidate F1. Go to any other track and it’s obvious that IMS is an old outdated facility that has a bunch of seats that aren’t worth nearly what they charge for them.
    Editor’s Note: The juvenile way in which you attempt to position all things IMS to fit into your jaded viewpoint is almost as whacko as the most outside fringed tea party nuts. Part of the reason Tony was supposedly cut loose is that he would not stop spending money improving IMS. IndyCar funding aside (that’s always been about control) the spending simply stopped when Belskus took over, and it does not take long for a 104-year-old facility to slip. Use your head for once.

    It’s amazing that you Tony bootlickers want to try and tie this bailout request to the ouster of Tony.
    Editor’s Note: You should probably continue working on your reading comprehension skills. It is not being tied to the departure of George, but more to the legal necessity they now have to come into compliance with ADA. Oh, and ‘bootlicker’ again? Stay classy.

    Comment by TroyM — February 9, 2013 @ 5:03 pm | Reply

    • You said: “In this time and place, however, things are different. Hell has frozen over. IMS is desperately in need of improvement. This need has become profound since Tony George, the last philosophical link to Tony Hulman, was forced out. Those who succeeded George have allowed the type of quality maintenance that was standard in the past to become an afterthought today. Throughout the facility degeneration is obvious, from a museum parking lot that is falling apart to foot bridges on IMS land that are literally rotting away to now antique scoring and video structures that are relentlessly rusting away.”

      You make it sound like the place has fallen into major disrepair since Tony was shown the door. Now you want to say to become compliant with the ADA? Perhaps they should have put that into the plans back in 1999 when they upgraded the place for F1. ADA was passed early in Bill Clinton’s term, they have had more than enough time to become compliant. I am sure some of the money to fund the IRL or Vision racing during Tony’s tenure as CEO could have covered ADA upgrades.
      Editor’s Note: Oddly, any major upgrade or improvement made in Tony’s time was ADA compliant, and funded by IMS. The entire facility, however, is not ADA compliant. Few structures built in 1909 are. Making the entire facility compliant all at once, which is what some of the litigious folks want, is a massive, expensive undertaking. In your simplistic train of thought you seem to imply that had Tony George not started the IRL or Vision Racing there would be plenty of money to do that. That is ignorant.

      IMS really needs a new pave job, new video boards, and most of the frontstretch grandstands torn down and rebuilt so you can see much more of the track, and perhaps lights so they can run the Nascar Cup race at night. They have known for years that the view from their seats was horrible compared to other tracks, but when you are still selling them out, you aren’t going to to much about it. Now that many are empty, it has become clear that the people will not be coming back, thus the need to rebuild them. It’s too bad Tony George put IMS in such a horrible financial condition that IMS leadership is now standing on the steps of the statehouse, shaking a cup.
      Editor’s Note: I cannot help chortling at the way your kind twist circumstances to fit such a narrow viewpoint. As always, it’s a reach, especially for adults with firing synapses. In actual fact the financial condition of IMS is strong, and the real money Tony George spent was building the Pagoda and making the facility F-1 compliant. He left the place in much better shape than he found it, just like his grandfather. That approach is completely lost on the current leadership. What IMS is asking is something that is actually quite normal nationwide. In the racing business, it is something that everyone else already does. It is odd that your kind is not burning Bill France or Bruton Smith in effigy. If you were able to use your brain it would be easy for you to understand the economic impact IMS drives. I am surprised IMS did not do this years ago. The grandstands, particularly down the front straight and into turn 1, are iconic. Making them ADA compliant and perhaps more comfortable should be the goal. I certainly would not begin wholesale destruction so that NASCAR fans can see all the way around the track. Even under the best of circumstances that is likely impossible. If I were them I would make seats wider and deeper. That alone would make it better for fans.

      Comment by TroyM — February 11, 2013 @ 2:08 am | Reply

      • Perhaps you can provide everyone with links and examples of the France family or Bruton asking for public money to pay for direct improvements to their facilities. Your iconic grandstands are outdated and need to go. I have spent many races in the penthouse and spent the BY400 weekend in the lower level of the Paddock. Horrible seats, they do not have enough rise in them as you go up a row. By the time you get high enough to see anything, you are too far way from the track.
        Editor’s Note: Google is your friend. My suggestion for seats if you want to see a lot of the track: B or E Penthouse, or even one of the turns. Been sitting there for years. No complaints.

        Comment by TroyM — February 12, 2013 @ 2:15 am

      • You are telling me to google it? Why don’t you, since you are the one making the claim?
        Editor’s Note: I have. I’m satisfied. Show some initiative if your curiosity is piqued.

        Btw, have you produced that proof yet that Nascar was paying for Dario’s Cup ride?
        Editor’s Note: That investment did not pan out for them, and now he’s getting a divorce.

        As for your seating advice, you missed the point. While your suggestion is correct, there are only so many B-Penthouse and E-Penthouse seats. If you have a bunch of crappy seats priced at $90, people will just stay home. It’s not worth it to most.
        Editor’s Note: That’s fine. I’d rather have the stands filled with actual racing fans.

        Comment by TroyM — February 13, 2013 @ 1:09 am

      • What is a real race fan?
        Editor’s Note: A) one who shows up purely for the love of the sport regardless of the politics. B) one who stays focused on the topic.

        Comment by TroyM — February 16, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

      • What does a crappy view have to do with politics? Let’s recap: I pointed out that people won’t pay $90 for crappy seats in an old outdated, but “iconic” grandstand and you commented that you would rather have real race fans there. Are people just suppossed to overpay for crappy seats just because they are on what you consider hallowed ground?
        Editor’s Note: There are 275,000 or so permanent seats. Most cost less than $90. Find another one. Problem solved.

        Comment by TroyM — February 17, 2013 @ 12:51 am

  3. Hey hypocrite! You have posted on tf that using tax money for racing is bad because it was CART/CC. I see know it is okay because it is the ims. This only proves what a piece of shit placefan who bends over for Tony’s cock every chance you really are. Maybe now you can bring your 300 pound plus wife after the ada ramps are built! Electric carts are good for getting lots of weight moved from place to place.
    Editor’s Note: Let’s review this latest comment episode by a mentally unhinged, developmentally challenged idiot: Concoction of fiction as if it were gospel. Check. Scatalogical references. Check. Insults that make no sense. Check. A user name that sounds like it was concocted in the second grade. Check. Is it any wonder the series of which these children are so fond killed itself? Word of advice from the grownups: Evolve. Walking upright and using more than one orifice to breathe is all anyone who aspires to become human desires. Oh, and thanks for having someone read to you.

    Comment by Willy Pheistergache — February 10, 2013 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  4. This is a comprehensive and interesting site; too bad people rail against someone’s opinion with poor grammar and intemperate language. Does everyone hiding behind a pseudonym need to use such sleazy language to make a point? Shameful. If I were the author of this blog, I’d eliminate the ability to comment.
    Editor’s Note: Sometimes it is easier to just let such folks expose themselves for what they are. Graffiti taggers with no talent.

    Comment by slick2013 — February 10, 2013 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  5. “Let us hope the money is spent wisely….” You sure that you’re not getting a little ahead of yourself? They’ve still got to actually get the money…
    Editor’s Note: They will. It’s a no-brainer.

    Comment by Andrew — February 12, 2013 @ 9:26 am | Reply

  6. I for one look forward to the ADA ramps as I am sure you do. How have you transported your wife to E stand? The ramps will help you I m sure, but you should always remember that a jazzy scooter can evidently push 300 pounds uphill.
    Editor’s Note: My wife climbs the stairs, hand in hand most of the way. Her petite size 4 frame makes it up a lot faster than my bulbous arse. Good tip on the jazzy…I’ll probably be able to use it if I put on another 115 pounds or so. But my doctor encourages me in the other direction. Nowthen, do you have any observations actually related to the topic or is your ADD just acting up?

    Comment by Racingdentist — February 13, 2013 @ 5:45 am | Reply

  7. “your jaded viewpoint is almost as whacko as the most outside fringed tea party nuts”

    Oh yeah, those people who don’t think we should be supporting corporate welfare. I thought those left wing union loving Hollywierd following extremists thought the same thing. I guess the last four years have shown us their true colors.

    If government regulations like the ADA require the speedway to make changes, then the government ought to pay for it. Otherwise it would be very smart for the George family to avoid depending on government money. It always comes with strings. And the government is worse than broke. The government money will cease to flow at some point. Any business dependent on government money will fail. Tony Hulman had it right then, and he would be right now.

    Comment by Bob F. — February 14, 2013 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

  8. What a mess!! I found your article sad and missing countless economic facts. Fact The Pacers make money as an organization yet the Indiana taxpayer and the field house loose money!? Why? It was a dumb and bad deal. In addition, 95% of the Indiana taxpayers cannot afford to go to the game yet you and others ask them to pay the bill for their arena and poor business. Private Business and private econ studies may fool those that have no clue about economics or personal and professional responsibility but not me. How do you and others sleep at night!? You want to take money away from gov’t and people of need!! Gov’t that is spending more than it could ever take in?! In short, you think it is a good idea to line the pockets of millionares, who screwed up their own business!? I noticed you choose to ignore that. Why ? Is it guilt, ignorance or are you on the take? Which is it. Finally, tear down the Hoosier Dome and build Lucas Stadium ?? What fool thought that was going to make money and self sustain the building!?? Not me! Colts make money now but what happens when the stink and the place is not sold out for every game the next 10 years. Are the Colts owners going to fill the void!? Now go get your check from the IMS and the girls and see about your next job.
    Editor’s Note: I understand the line of thought that government ought to steer clear of helping fund private enterprises. In a general sense government ought to be less involved in a lot of things. I do not really pay much attention to the Colts or Pacers, but do understand the economic impact they have. But even that is small potatoes compared to IMS, which is directly responsible for over half a BILLION (with a B) dollars of economic impact EVERY year. We’re talking jobs, businesses and other viable tax creating impact. The $100 million over several years being debated for IMS is not a grant but more of a loan that is guaranteed, in large part to fund ADA compliance which is a real challenge for a historic site that is over 100 years old, not to mention bringing it up to a level of newer competitors. That particular private enterprise has steered clear of such assistance at least since 1946, and that is commendable. For almost as long hyper-critical meddlers with little insight into the business have slammed the business acumen of the owners, particularly since 1996. Now that the enterprise is run by actual business people with viable experience they have chosen a path that is neither out of the ordinary nor as egregious as critics attempt to position it. So my advice is to, essentially, chill the F out. If the 100K over several years adds 100K annually to the half a billion a year already generated (not a stretch according to those with economics chops) it is a no-brainer and fairly simple to prove. Let’s see how the money is spent. It is not the end of anyone’s world, and the funding does not remove any critical services or programs from anyone.

    Comment by John Hughes — March 27, 2013 @ 5:23 pm | Reply

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