SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The mass influx of NCAA Tournament fans has downtown businesses seeing a heavy cash flow. The success has Speedway businesses eyeing the possibility of fans for the Indy 500. So far, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) officials are staying neutral on the topic.
“We’re not making any predictions at all because anything I would say today could be completely wrong,” says IMS Owner Roger Penske. “Our goal would be to have 250,000. I mean, that’s what we want to have. It’s outside, and we’ve got the biggest stadium in the world here.”
Penske went on to say capacity limits will be discussed with local legislators and health officials. Last year, the race dwindled down to 50% capacity before dropping to 25%. By race day, IMS had to announce that there would be no fans allowed at the race. The economic impact felt in Speedway was catastrophic.
“Business wise we got killed. It was bad for business but good for COVID. We depend on May basically,” explained Gerardo Rios, who owns Tacos and Tequila On Main, which is almost in view of the track.
“That’s why we are hoping the Indy 500 race is going to happen. I would say 25% to 50% would help us.”
Rios was able to keep his restaurant open because it is family owned and operated. His loyal customers also made it a point to continue to get takeout from there.
“Sometimes we didn’t have any business. Some days it was like carry-out only, with me and my wife only,” explained Rios. “Sometimes I didn’t have to pay myself for like months, just got a little money for the bills. This place was something else before the COVID hit us.”
He says he is crossing his fingers that fans will be allowed at the race in any capacity.
Penske did say he believes there will be fans at all Indy Car races this season. They are currently working with promoters and sponsors.