By Ken De La Bastide
— For almost a century the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the biggest draw in terms of tourism dollars in Indiana and now it is requesting some public assistance to enhance that impact.
IMS officials are hoping the Indiana General Assembly will pass legislation creating a motorsports investment district to help offset a projected $100 million investment to the facility.
The investment district would capture the state sales and income taxes — projected at $5 million per year — to help pay off bonds meant for installing lights around the 2.5 mile oval, upgrade video screens, and improved seating and compliance with federal disabled accessibility requirements.
With the state providing $5 million per year, IMS would still provide $2 million of the funding on an annual basis.
IMS has never sought funding or tax breaks from Indiana or the city of Indianapolis, always paying its own way. The other sports entity in the state capital not to ask for tax dollars are the Indianapolis Indians, which footed the cost for Victory Field.
Over the years, the legislature has provided funding for new stadiums for the Indianapolis Colts, basketball arenas for the Indiana Pacers and improvements to the Indiana Convention Center and the Colts practice facility.
Those funds are filtered through the Capital Improvement Board to the tune of $16 million per year.
Should IMS receive approval from the legislature, it will continue to pay property taxes to Marion County and the city of Speedway and I’m quite sure it’s a healthy sum.
The Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly reported in 2011 that the IMS and the Indianapolis 500 contributed more than $727 million to the state’s economy. Purdue University estimated the Indianapolis 500 brings in $336 million to the state’s economy while the home games of the Indianapolis Colts generates $104 million.
Lighting the 2.5 mile IMS oval can only draw more fans to Indianapolis. Fans that will spend money on food, entertainment, lodging and fuel.
By providing lights, the Brickyard 400 — scheduled during the hottest time of the year in August — could become a night race. That alone would probably attract more people to the event.
It would also make possible a longer duration sports car race, something in the range of 12 hours on the IMS road course.
I’m hopeful lawmakers will determine the long term benefits of supporting the IMS request for funding assistance.
In other racing news: IZOD IndyCar officials recently announced the 22 teams that will be a part of the 2013 Leaders Circle Program, which provides incentives to teams that run the complete schedule. Each team is assured a minimum of $1 million, if they make the field for the Indianapolis 500.
Sarah Fisher Racing, HVM Racing and Dragon Racing were added to the program on options to fill out the program.
Since then, Andretti Autosport announced a fourth full-time team with E.J. Viso as the driver. Viso will join Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe.
Simon Pagenaud will be driving full-time for Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports in 2013.
— Ken De La Bastide writes for CNHI News Service. He may be reached at 765-454-8580 or by emailing to email@example.com.