Enhancing the Experience at IMS
By: IMS President, Doug Boles
We’ve known for a long time that the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was going to be an important milestone for this facility. As we started thinking through that milestone, thoughts turned to how to make sure the 100th running is not only a celebration of the first century of racing at IMS, but also the springboard to the next century of racing to come at IMS.
It started as a simple question or conversation about how to keep the “500” special. From that, we discussed what could we do to keep the Indianapolis Motor Speedway feeling like the special and historic facility it is, but at the same time provide amenities and modern technologies that our fans expect and that the experience needs. How do we help fans engage in the events more and receive more information in a seat that’s been there for 60 years?
That was how Project 100 was born.
When thinking about areas of where we should invest, from seating to concessions or video screens, we considered the costs and the return on investment not only for the Speedway but for the community and the state
The first project as part of Project 100 was the road course renovation that took place in the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014. And in many ways, this investment is the most important because it assists the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in doing what it was designed to do 106 years ago—host racing events! The road course renovation provides great flexibility to host major racing events and even smaller on-track programs that can utilize the road course in various configurations or on a very limited portion of it. The north end inside Turn 4 of the oval, for example, was designed so it might be used in the future by car clubs or for other activities like autocross. The most urgent reasons for the renovation were to add the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, host the return of MotoGP and to continue to have a viable road course to host sports car racing in the future.
In my mind, the second-most important investment was the installation of the new video boards that our fans saw this past season. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 not as an entertainment venue but as a vehicle research-and-development facility. The track is so big and so flat that fans cannot see all the way around, yet it is essential that we provide an ability for fans to see all the action on the track. Beginning this past season, the track made use of larger, HD video screens so that the in-seat experience is better and fans aren’t missing something on the half of the track that they can’t see. This investment and partnership with Panasonic continues to make the experience in a seat much, much better.
Another project fans have already enjoyed is the installation of the new pylon which was completed in 2014 between the “500” and the NASCAR race in July. We wanted the new pylon to be able to deliver more information to fans, to make it more dynamic in its presentation and to make it more visible from a distance. Most importantly, to an Indy 500 traditionalist like me, we were really conscientious to have it look like very much like the previous two pylons and for it to have the ability to light up and replicate the moment when fans walk into the Indy 500 on Race Day and still see the 33 cars and their numbers on the pylon. It may be Project 100 and new technology, but it was key that we did it in a way that demonstrated we care about the tradition and history of the way the track looks.
When fans return in 2016 for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, there will be more changes to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of Project 100. The areas where fans can expect improvement will most likely be in the areas of seating, technology, gates and entryways, concession and restroom upgrades, and new hospitality options.
PADDOCK PENTHOUSE, STAND A, STAND B RENOVATION
Seat renovation will most likely focus on the upper deck of the frontstretch and into Turn 1. Many of the current seats in these sections are folding chairs and we anticipate the installation of stadium seats to enhance the experience. We’re also hoping to create better sightlines by raising the roof level and removing some of the columns and the posts that obstruct the views, especially in Stands A and B. And, if we raise the roof, we can build three additional rows on these sections to give more people the opportunity to sit in the upper deck in our highest-demand seats. This seat renovation will also provide us the ability to offer access into these areas for fans with disabilities. Right now, the facility has a number of seats with access for disabled customers, but none are in those highest-demand seats. Through this project we will install new elevators to help move disabled guests up to these new seats. By 2016 we also hope to have Wi-Fi access in these seats and upgraded concession stands and food offerings.
PADDOCK – STREET SIDE VIEW
One of the challenges of Project 100 is to make needed improvements but also make sure the look and feel of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains special and historic. History is what makes IMS what it is. We have to protect the character of the facility. It is our hope that fans will notice an energized facility but that in many ways it will have the same special feeling that the racetrack has today. Even the new roof along the frontstretch will feel like it belongs in the facility and it will tie in elements of the grandstand and the Panasonic Pagoda or the look and feel of the Gasoline Alley suites. There will be a feel that you would expect from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We are not creating a brand new racetrack, but rather we are adding some enhancements to what is already the greatest racetrack in the world.
HULMAN TERRACE CLUB
Currently there are 27 individual suites and over 2,000 seats in Hulman Suites. This whole area, or part of it, could be renovated and converted into a club similar to any other major stadium, where a fan can buy a ticket in one of the seats and then have access to a semi-private area for food and beverage service. We are exploring building an outside deck area on the south end with a covered bar, surrounding a large indoor pavilion. In front, the seats will be 22-inch stadium seats. We envision this area would be available to small corporations or individuals interested in more than just a normal IMS seat experience.
In addition, we believe this new facility could be used throughout the year for special events providing club space, food service and the unique opportunity to have the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the backdrop for the event.
TURN 1 GATEWAY
Another area where IMS will look and feel different in the future is Gate 1—the facility’s front door to hundreds of thousands of fans each year. It is our hope that we will create a gate and entryway that is inviting and enjoyable and makes a statement about just how historic this racetrack is. Gate 1 already serves as our year-round photo op and this new entryway will provide even better opportunities as our year-round way to engage with the fan that’s just passing through and might not have time to go to the Museum but wants to have their picture taken to memorialize their visit to Indianapolis.
Most important to our Race Day customers, those gates will be designed to ensure we move people in and out quickly and safely, and will provide us the opportunity to add technology such as ticket scanning and other features, and to improve the customer service from the moment fans get to the gate.
Finally, we envision the entire corridor from 16th Street all the way up to Turn 4 and Gate 9, which is 25th Street, could change significantly over the next few years. Ultimately, we are working with the Town of Speedway to create some type of linear park that will provide green space access for spectators and neighbors to use and enjoy. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is and has always been a special place. And it is our focus and hope that these Project 100 additions and changes to the facility and the area surrounding it will only continue to enhance that feeling of awe and excitement that is so important to all of us as fans of this great racetrack.