INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana taxpayers are being asked to contribute up to $5 million a year for improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The request marks a major turnaround in the longtime Hulman family policy of not asking for public money.
Speedway officials and Statehouse sources said the policy turnaround was prompted by the need for a major infusion of capital to keep the track competitive, and it could lead to some major changes and additions in the yearly program.
Speedway officials said there is no official plan yet and there won't be one until they put together a long-range master plan.
But they acknowledged that they're talking about improved video boards and most importantly, lights, so they would have the option of hosting night races or moving current races to night to escape the heat.
"And lately, especially in the Brickyard because it's run in the hottest time of the year, they have been losing ticket sales," said Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. "And so we're trying to devise a plan that we can attract more people to this race and actually provide other races."
Young's bill would create a motor sports taxing district around the Speedway similar to, but not quite the same as, the one surrounding Downtown sports venues.
The state would turn over income, sales and corporate taxes collected within the district to pay off a bond that could amount to $100 million.
"This is something that's been thought about now here for well over a year and thought through carefully,” said Mark Miles, Hulman Co. CEO. “And we believe that this is the best opportunity to continue to have the Indianapolis Motor Speedway be as competitive as possible in a very tough environment, not for us per se, but for racing and for sports in general."
The Hulmans have committed to putting in $2 million a year toward the $7 million bond payments, and if tax revenue didn't provide enough to pay the other $5 million, they would make up the difference.
Key budget-makers appear sympathetic.
"We've been talking to them for about two years about this issue,” said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. “And they have a pretty big need for some major capital improvements out there. I think actually the state can be a winner and get a return on its investment."