Indianapolis 500 officials are proud to open the annual racing event to 135,000 spectators next month
The Indianapolis 500 is set to be the biggest sporting event in the world since the start of the pandemic with 135,000 spectators allowed to watch the “greatest racing spectacle” next month.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Wednesday it is working with the Marion County Public Health Department to determine that 40% of the venue’s capacity can attend the May 30 race over Memorial Day weekend. The speedway is the largest sports facility in the world, with more than 250,000 grandstand seats and the capacity to accommodate nearly 400,000 on race day throughout the property.
The attendance figure was determined after Indianapolis hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March and April with limited attendance. The NCAA has allowed 8,000 fans into Lucas Oil Stadium for the April 5 men’s championship game.
Last weekend, Alabama’s spring football game saw 47,218 fans, nearly 10,000 more than a recent Texas Rangers baseball game; an Australian cricket match in Melbourne drew 51,723 players in March.
Roger Penske, in his second year as Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner, had hoped for a full turnout, but IndyCar and speedway officials are proud of the stage ahead.
“This event and this place means so much to everyone we see every day and hear about every day, whether Hoosiers or racing fans around the world,” said Mark Miles, President and CEO. management of Penske Entertainment Corp., to The Associated Press.
“We feel a real responsibility to protect that legacy, to grow it and to have the race,” Miles said. “We are ready to take the next step to bring the economy and a lot of that back to this city and this state is driven by sporting events that have been closed for so many months. March Madness has been an incredible success, c This is the next step and it just happens to be probably the biggest sporting event of the year.”
The speedway will be open to spectators every day the cars are on the track starting with the May 15 road event. Observation mounds in the infield will be closed and general admission infield tickets will not be available.
The noisy infield “Snake Pit” will be closed and all traditional concerts will not take place, including Carb Day and Legends Day. There will be suite seating and the pagoda will be open to those with tickets, but the middle will be closed.
Grandstand seating will be socially distanced; fans will have the option to return their tickets for account credit.
Face coverings will be required on track property and temperature checks will be conducted at entrances. IMS will also be extending its vaccination clinics through the end of May with the opportunity for spectators to get vaccinated at speedway grounds throughout the month.
Miles predicts that about 60% of those present will have been vaccinated. IMS has vaccinated around 100,000 people since it began operating as a site.
“Roger Penske and everyone associated with Penske Entertainment and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been incredible partners with us throughout the pandemic,” Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said. “It’s high time fans returned to the world’s greatest racing circuit with this safety plan in place.”
Miles said 90% of the IndyCar paddock had been vaccinated when last Sunday’s season opener and there were two more opportunities for competitors to get vaccinated before the start of racing at the circuit. Those who choose not to be vaccinated before the track opens May 18 for Indy 500 preparations will be required to undergo daily COVID-19 testing.