IMS funding deal in the works as lawmakers near deadline

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State lawmakers say they are nearing an agreement on several major issues, including a bill to fund improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

While the state budget still needs to be finalized, legislative leaders said Wednesday they still haven’t determined how large of a tax cut the budget might include. With adjournment now just days away, the General Assembly is closing in on its final deadline. But on some issues, like the motor sports investment bill, lawmakers are closing in on a deal.

“I think we have an agreement with all the players,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Michael Young, R-Speedway. “It will be a loan, over 20 years, and it will be a loan that the Speedway will have to pay back.”

“The most important thing for us is that gets completed, and gets completed in a way that both houses feel comfortable about, and taxpayers feel comfortable about,” said IMS spokesman Doug Boles.

Another option had involved taking money from the state’s casinos to help pay for the upgrades at IMS – an idea that’s now been ruled out.

“That just is not fair to take money from a private company to give to another private company,” said Sen. Young. “We weren’t going to do that.”

“By the end of the week, we’re hoping we’ve got some legislation passed that lets us really move out on our master plan, and figure out how we’re going to invest in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway going forward,” said Boles.

“We will be putting $2 million a year into this, along with the state’s $5 million loans,” said CEO Jeff Belskus, earlier this month. “So we are committed.”

Track officials want to make more than $100 million of improvements to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in order to remain competitive. One possible upgrade includes a plan to add lights to the track, but officials said that wasn’t a done deal yet.

“We haven’t made a decision on how any of this would be used and in particular with respect to lights,” said Boles. “It’s a 50-50 proposition but it’s certainly one we are considering.”

“Unlike any other sports team, the track will be putting in its own money and in order to pay back the loan, they have to generate the income,” said Sen. Young. “So they’ve got to increase their business out there. They believe they can do it, and that’s a big investment right there.”

At this point, lawmakers say there are just a couple of small details left to finalize, before the conference committee report gets signed and sent on to a final vote in the House and Senate.