….because I care and want my great grandchildren to be able to watch. As IndyCar limps to the end of a discombobulated season with a 500 mile race on an increasingly rare oval that should be absolutely great, it is in the best interests of everyone interested in the sport to look ahead. Mark Miles has been in office for a year but about the only thing we have seen or heard is jargon-filled rhetoric about all the good things that are going to happen in the future. Most fans crave something more substantive right now.
At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Boles and crew are busy spending taxpayer money rejiggering an infield road course most have universally panned since it was installed in preparation for a road race in freaking May at Indy.
Do the folks running the show have the ability or willingness to think really, REALLY big? Carl Fisher was a classic dreamer, and one of the current IMS sound bites trumpets the fact that Fisher dreamt of a road course. Never mind It was envisioned inside a 3 mile oval or that he realized a saturation of races was a bad idea but a huge main event was a great idea and that is how the 500 was born. Dreamers these days are very scarce. People who count beans and take the most conservative possible approaches are a dime a dozen and it shows.
The following is an example of thinking big. Folks who love the Speedway, respect its history and ground themselves in reality see immense potential. The west side of Indianapolis excluding some parts of Speedway has become a decrepit, dilapidated shell of its former self. Much of the region is a Section 8 haven in which crime is rampant and police calls plentiful. 38th Street from 465 to Kessler is a ghost town ghetto with relics of once vibrant businesses long departed. Lafayette Square was once the nicest place in the city to shop. Today it is the best place to get shot in the face for no apparent reason. The outstanding efforts of those gentrifying Speedway aside, the west side of the city is largely forgotten. That means the value of real estate and land has plummeted. That creates opportunity for visionaries.
Indianapolis has touted itself for years as the amateur sports capital of the world. The city has played host to a Super Bowl, several NCAA basketball tournament events and countless other venues. The pro sports teams are big draws. Indianapolis gets rave reviews from those who visit for such events.
Fans have heard for decades how great a dedicated 50 year partnership between Disney-owned ABC and IMS is (never mind that outside May the corporate parent forgets IndyCar exists and the coverage they offer is substandard in almost every way). If the love fest is actually mutual and not the kind of shallow lip service jive to which racing fans have become accustomed why not meaningfully leverage it? The Disney parent operates and continuously reinvents the two most popular destination resorts in the history of the world on both coasts. The location of DisneyLand in Anaheim surprised many people in the 50s because Walt plopped it into the same sort of run down third world-type vicinity that has now consumed the west side of Indianapolis.
The solution is not a third mid-continent Disney World (although that might be fun) but a destination resort that features sports as its theme and IMS as the centerpiece. It is my belief that NO ONE involved in the sport today is capable of reinventing it and making it appealing to succeeding generations. The folks at Disney could. Brand it more ESPN than Disney but make it a must visit year round destination.
The opportunity seems limitless. Plentiful land that is dirt cheap and an opportunity for meaningful gentrification. IMS needs that type of investment and neither the city nor the track seems capable of the necessary vision. It might even be a great idea to consider selling a large share of the track and the series to Disney. 100K and change can only go so far at IMS, and outside the Speedway revitalization efforts the west side is likely to continue its regression toward Detroit-like status. Comparison of what IMS has done since the 90s to what Disney has done since the 90s is startling.
If the brand of IndyCar is to be effectively re-invented an entity that knows how to do that is required. The only thing the current braintrust seems able to do is repeat past mistakes the resulted in failure. Enough is enough. Think big then do something about it.