The state's top political leader is voicing concerns about a plan to offer financial help to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Governor Mike Pence told reporters Wednesday that he has reservations about the way IMS bill is crafted. Pence is concerned that it provides little private investment opportunity.
The state Senate approved the $100 million plan in a 37-12 vote last month. The Speedway already spends $5 to $15 million annually on maintenance and is facing competitive pressure from newer facilities.
Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and IMS President and CEO Jeff Belskus went to the Statehouse to ask for financial help in February.
With $100 million in bonds, the Speedway will add lights to allow night racing at the historic track. It will also renovate the stands, upgrade facilities and install high-tech video boards.
Lighting the track, as well as grandstands and parking lots, could cost as much as $20 million. Building renovations and track upgrades could cost as much as $30 million. Another $10 million would be spent to make the Speedway compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The money would be essentially taken out as a lump sum loan and paid back over 20 years. A special taxing zone at IMS would provide $5 million a year. Another $2 million annually would be paid by the Speedway . . .Let's be clear. There is nothing in the legislation that requires the IMS to contribute $2 million annually; any contribution the IMS makes to these improvements are at its discretion. The only recourse bondholders have for repayment of the bonds issued under the legislation is to capture up to $5 million a year in taxes the IMS pays to the state. If the state revenue contribution is inadequate to cover repayment of the bonds, the bondholders have no recourse against the IMS because the proposed state law bars them from protecting their interest with any lien or mortgage on the IMS.
During a House Ways & Means Committee hearing this morning on the give-away, the IMS' Mark Miles told lawmakers the Hulman-George family has no plans to sell the IMS. “There is absolutely no intention to sell it,” he said. “We're not doing things to get it ready to sell. The family fully expects to keep this business their business.” Yeah, as if he's going to admit their true intentions out loud to lawmakers. I wonder if Miles carefully parsed those words so that a new owner that included Tony George as a successor owner would make his statement true.
IMS officials are once again touting an economic development study it had prepared, which claims the IMS contributed $510 million to the local economy annually and generates 6,200 jobs. The IMS and IndyCar series actually have a relatively small number of full-time employees. As everyone familiar with IMS events knows, the IMS relies heavily on volunteers from not-for-profit groups to provide concession and parking staff on race day. Nonetheless, it claims the IMS and related sports businesses generate annual compensation to employees of over $235 million. It claims 200,000 out-of-state visitors spend $145 million combined at the IMS' three annual race events.