IMS announces major changes, but no lights
There are major changes ahead for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Track officials revealed Tuesday how they will spend millions of dollars - some of it taxpayer money - for improvements at the track.
The IMS wants to make the seats more comfortable, provide better grandstand access, install new video screens, increase concession choices, provide wireless Internet access and add more entertainment.
The track as already resurfaced all of the infield portion of the road course. Some of the changes, like seat upgrades, are a few years off, but those video screens will be ready come racing season 2014.
For racing fans like Ben Kunkler, the calendar may say December at Mike's Speedway Lounge just down the street from the track, with Texas Hold ‘Em as the only sport Kunkler cares about right now.
"Racing's a lot like poker. It's a lot of fun. You never know and it's exciting," said Kunkler.
In just five months though, what's going on at the IMS will be the only action Kunkler is focusing on.
"You can just feel it in the air," he said. "I love the crowds, the atmosphere."
It's an atmosphere IMS plans to improve with several new upgrades, including the new video screens.
"It will allow our fans in the seats to see better all around the track," said Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hulman & Company.
The track's also about to get wider by adding an apron for the Brickyard.
"We think that's really going to help the NASCAR race in terms of the competition levels and bunching the cars up and allowing for a lot more passing during that event," explained Boles.
One improvement that was talked about but won't be happening is adding lights for nighttime racing.
"It's a $20 million project and it's really hard to make that make sense for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and for the taxpayers," said Boles.
Taxpayers will pick up some of the tab for some of the changes through an admissions fee tax that will be added on to all tickets purchased for events at the Speedway in 2014.
"Right now, if somebody were to buy an Indy 500 ticket for 2014, there is no admissions tax fee on that ticket. Beginning January 1st of next year, there will be an admissions tax on all tickets sold at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway based on the face value of the ticket," explained Boles.
Admissions fee tax or not, come May, nothing could keep Ben Kunkler away from the IMS.
"It's already the best spectacle in racing, you know?" said Kunkler.
Not even a winning poker hand.