INDIANAPOLIS - The state has approved a major loan package of $100 million for upgrading the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Speedway is in the process of hiring a master planner to prioritize projects, but fans are already making suggestions.
Chief Operating Officer Doug Boles said fans' suggestions will be taken seriously.
"Fan input is really out biggest piece, so we filter everything through the fan experience," Boles said. "I think most of the improvements and additions that you're going to see here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have something to do with the fan experience. So we take a lot of that input. We understand what our fans like. We understand some of the things that are more difficult for them when they're here. And so we're going to try and work through those."
Fans have a big list of upgrades they'd like to see.
Boles said lights rank near the top of the fan list, but that doesn't mean everybody wants them.
He described lights as a polarizing factor that some fans would love and others would hate, which will make the decision tricky.
Boles said the Brickyard 400 might be a good candidate to become a night race, but he doesn't see the Indianapolis 500 ever moving from its current time slot, though lighting could allow that race to be finished in the event of a weather delay.
Parking, entertainment and food are other areas where race fans have said they'd like to see improvement.
Boles said the final list of improvement projects will probably be out sometime this fall.
The upgrade package calls for the state to lend the Speedway $5 million a year for 20 years with the track contributing $2 million a year.
The Speedway will be making other upgrades to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The mounds -- a family picnicking area inside turn two -- will be more accessible.
"Historically it's been an area that if you were in a wheelchair or had trouble walking, you either couldn't get in there or you had to navigate through some steep hills and some grass," Boles said. "What we've been able to do is add additional parking out there, create a path that allows folks in a wheelchair to get off the internal roadway."
The accessible mounds area is open now, but the Speedway hopes to have an official ribbon-cutting for it at some time in the future.
The track has also upgraded a grandstand between turns one and two. A new ramp system enables fans in wheelchairs to access a new raised deck, which will be open most of the year, not just during races and practices.
"That grandstand was important to us because even on days when we're closed but we have testing going on, we allow people to come in and sit in that area at the museum," Boles said. "That grandstand's kind of open all year round, so we wanted to make sure that that was available, not only for race weekends, but when we're having private testing and other things, when our fans just come out and want to see what's happening at the track."
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