No fans at Indy 500 means big loss to local economy

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Thirty-three cars, 200 laps, 500 miles… and this year, zero fans.

“Very sad,” said racing fan Judy Perfetto. “We look forward to it every year.”

With a capacity of nearly 300,000, the 104-year-old tradition wasn’t immune to a pandemic. However, the loss of thousands of fans means the loss of millions of dollars.

“We know it’s a healthy 8 or 9 figures in economic impact that Indianapolis enjoys on an annual basis,” said Chris Gahl, senior vice president of Visit Indy.

That revenue spreads across the entire city, but its loss is certainly felt in the town of Speedway.

“There’s certainly an economic impact to everyone in town,” said Speedway Town Manager Carlos May.

In Speedway, May is a month to count on. Homeowners and local organizations rely on packed parking lots while local restaurants rely on packed tables.

“It certainly impacts the community members, the business owners in town, and the volunteers that use this to raise money for their profit and nonprofit organizations,” May said.

For Speedway High School, Indy 500 parking revenue is a huge chunk of their athletic budget. Race day alone pulls in nearly $20,000 each year.

“The race has been run for 103 or 104 years,” said Speedway High School Athletic Director Brian Avery. “So to anticipate for some reason that it wouldn’t be, pre-COVID, really wasn’t in our thinking.”

This year, Indianapolis will have to get by without what they’ve come to know. As fans turn on the TV to watch the 104th running, they’ll have their eyes set on the 105th.

“Maybe we’ll just have to wait until next May,” Profetto said.

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