INDIANAPOLIS - An agreement has been reached to make the Indianapolis Motor Speedway accessible to people with disabilities.
The U.S. Attorney's office announced a settlement with IMS Thursday that will put disabled individuals on equal footing with all race fans.
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett called the agreement historic and said it has been in the making for more than a decade.
“For more than a century, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a treasured symbol for all Hoosiers, and this agreement ensures that it will now be accessible to all Hoosiers,” Hogsett said in a news release.
Thursday's agreement set a timeline for bringing the venue into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and includes a list of more than 360 changes that need to be made.
The Speedway will begin providing accessibility in all areas of the grandstands to people in wheelchairs and their companions and will install ramps and elevators to support ease of access and modify concession stands, restrooms and even the viewing areas on the mounds on the inside of the Speedway.
"You have to worry about parking. You have to worry about concessions, restroom. All that is part of the track, and all of that is part of the racing experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," said attorney Greg Fehribach.
All of this came about from a single complaint lodged by race fan Dan Ward in 1999 when he was denied access to Gasoline Alley because he was in a wheelchair, even though he had credentials to enter.
"I was really disappointed," Ward said. "People with disabilities face a lot of obstacles, and when you have it hit you in the face so to speak, it just really made me disappointed that day."
Ward said he's glad that, after so much time, his efforts have paid off.
"I didn't realize it was going to be as much of a production as it was going to be," Ward said. "But I'm pleased with my efforts, because people with disabilities will be able to access the facility in full."
Though the IMS didn't admit any guilt related to Ward's complaint, they agreed to pay him $35,000. The IMS agreed to pay $35,000 to the federal government as well.
Speedway officials said marrying a century-old race track with the modern-day disability act does present a challenge.
"It gets a little dicey, a little complicated as to where these kinds of things can be installed," said IMS Chief Engineer Kevin Forbes. "We've got existing spectators that we have to worry about not trying to disrupt their experience."
As part of the agreement, IMS officials will submit a report to Hogsett every 90 days detailing their progress toward completing the renovations.