A bill that would grant tax breaks and pave the way for improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has advanced in a Senate committee.
The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the bill Thursday in an 11-0 vote.
“We’re very pleased,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus. “We’ve been very fortunate we haven’t had to do this in the past, but you know, it’s a competitive new world we’re living in and we’re competing with a lot of new facilities.”
Track officials want to make more than $100 million in improvements at the track to keep it competitive. The upgrades could include lights for night races and video boards and LED screens to that would keep fans updated at races. Other proposed upgrades would include structural renovations to stands, improved seating and restrooms and improvements to parking, tunnels, gates and fan access points.
State Sen. Mike Young, R-Speedway, authored the bill, which includes a bond that would create an Indiana Motorsports Investment District. Money generated through sales at income taxes at IMS properties would be reinvested in the track.
“We’ve got states putting in extra money for their raceways to take away from ours, and so the Speedway needs just a little help to do some things to bring people back to the track,” said Sen. Young.
“This is not our first choice,” said Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman & Company. “We’re doing this because we realize we’re in a very competitive marketplace and there are tracks all over that get public support, and if we’re going to stay competitive and be the racing capital of the world, we’re going to have to move up our investment schedule and we do need the state’s help.”
“There’s going to be a positive return on investment for the state of Indiana,” said Belskus.
“This is an economic engine for the state of Indiana,” said Miles.
Local business owners were also pleased by Thursday’s committee vote.
“I think it should help everybody,” said Shawn Leo, who runs a barber shop on Main Street, near the track. “Our street down here has improved a lot, we’ve got so many businesses coming down here now, so I think it would bring a lot.”
Leo was also excited about the possibility of night races at the Speedway, including speculation that lights could lead to a prime-time NASCAR race at IMS in the future.
“You’re under the lights, it’s cool, it’s not hot so you can enjoy the race a little,” he said.
“The theory is that it would help bring more people to the race, because it would alleviate any concerns about the heat,” said Miles. “And, it’s just different. It has a different look and feel.”
“I hear positives and negatives,” said Leo. “A lot of the old guys, they don’t want to pay the tax money, but a lot of the race fans, they’ve always wanted a night race and I think it’d bring a lot to the town.”
The bill will be heard by the full Senate next week, and could be voted on the week after.