The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is seeking aid from the state as part of a plan to fund up to $100 million in improvements at the famed racetrack.
The plan would create a “motor sports investment district” to collect existing state sales, income and corporate taxes generated in an area that includes the IMS to help pay for the improvements, IMS officials said. The collected taxes would raise up to $5 million a year that the state would contribute to help pay off bonds for the improvements over a 20-year period, while the IMS would put up $2 million each year.
Legislation to enact the plan will be unveiled Monday by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. Approval by the General Assembly would be required before it could become law. Indystar.com was first to report the plan on Friday night.
IMS plans to upgrade its infrastructure with changes including new video boards, better lighting and more modern grandstands, IMS officials said. Plans call for spending $70 million to $100 million.
“It’s really about keeping this iconic facility competitive in the sports and entertainment world,” said Jeff Belskus, IMS CEO and president.
Officials say they want to make the speedway more flexible, perhaps for different types of events down the line. The lighting, for example, would make it possible for some races to run at night.
NASCAR fans have complained about searing heat during the mid-summer Brickyard 400, set for July 28 this year. Asked if the IMS would move the Brickyard to the cooler evening hours if the money went through, spokesman Doug Boles said, “There could be a chance.” . . .Interest and attendance at Speedway racing events has dropped precipitously in recent years as many race fans, reeling from the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, can no longer afford the luxury of attending entertainment events. The Star articles uses the public funding of the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium and the $183 million Bankers Life Fieldhouse, both of which are publicly-owned buildings, as justification for now using state tax dollars to finance the improvements to the privately-owned IMS facilities. Naturally, Speedway officials are pointing to what other states are doing. The privately-owned Texas Motor Speedway has received more than $100 million in public subsidies. Besides, IMS officials promise to cover any shortfall in revenues if the proposed special taxing district fails to generate sufficient revenues to cover the cost of bonds issued for the improvements. How generous of the Hulman family, whose farm in Vigo County currently has the most productive oil wells operating in the state of Indiana, to agree to cover the shortfall.
While you and I have to purchase tickets to attend racing events at the Speedway, every single Indiana lawmaker who will be voting on this $100 million public subsidy, along with scores of other federal, state and local officials, receive free tickets to every event annually if they choose to accept them. I wonder who will win the loyalty of our lawmakers on this one: the peasant taxpayers or the royal crown?