By Jesselyn Bickley
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Senate passed a bill Tuesday that will allow the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make renovations designed to boost attendance and revenue at one of the world’ s most famous sports venues.
Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, listens to Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, after the Senate passed Young’s bill to help the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pay for impovements to the track. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com
Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said the bill is not a bailout.
The Speedway is not in trouble, he added.
But the venue – home of the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 – is seeking to do $100 million in improvements and needs help to do it. The project is in part meant to make the venue more accessible to people with disabilities, a mandate from the federal government.
“That is a very, very big venture,” Young said.
The IMS also wants to add lights so races can be help at night, improve the scoreboard, renovate buildings and improving seating. The track opened in 1909 and its competitors have modernized more quickly.
The IMS knows “fans expect more when they go to professional sporting events today,” Young said.
Senate Bill 91 would create a special district that captures taxes paid at the track and its golf course and makes the money available to the Speedway for the project. The bill assumes the track would sell $100 million in bonds and pay them off over 20 years, using about $5 million in revenue captured from the zone.
Young said the project is appropriate because the state is requiring the track to put some of its own money in the project. In addition, the track is responsible if the taxes don’t generate enough cash to cover the bond payments.
Also, Young said the IMS provides thousands of jobs to the state and millions of dollars in economic value. “By creating this partnership, we can capitalize on this asset and cultivate a positive return on investment for Indiana,” Young said.
The bill passed 37-12.
Jesse Bickley is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.