New president named for 500 Festival

Published: .
Updated: .

National television ratings for this year's Indianapolis 500 were down to one of their lowest levels in nearly 30 years. Interest in 500 Festival events also waned.

But the month May has a new boss.

Bob Bryant is coming from Atlanta to put some new excitement in the city's celebrations, events and parties leading up to race.

Three friends were lunching on parade bleachers on Monument Circle Wednesday and not one of them attended the parade, any of the 500 festival events, or the race.

April Miles thought for a second and said, "I think in our city, people are just kind of used to it."

Marco Boulair agreed.

"It's happened before in Indianapolis, maybe it's business as usual," he said.

It's not business as usual for a city that counts on hundreds of thousands of race fans and the tens of millions of dollars they spend.

The nationwide TV audience for Sunday's Indianapolis 500, according to, was at a near all-time low. The 500 Festival Mini Marathon sold out, but later than usual.

The parade nearly sold out, but it's smaller than a decade ago and big name celebrities are rare

Even one the city's biggest promoters, Indy Downtown Inc., admits May isn't what it used to be.

"We cannot get complacent and think this Indianapolis 500 and the 500 Festival are yesterday's game," Bob Schultz said with excitement in his voice. "It's all about the future."

A future that includes the 500 Festival's new president and CEO, Bob Bryant. Speaking over the phone from Atlanta, Bryant said, "I don't think there is a quick fix. I relish the opportunity to improve and keep people engaged."

Tax records show the 500 Festival is a six-and-a-quarter-million dollar business. It's facing unprecedented competition.

The city of Indianapolis, the world of entertainment and sports have grow dramatically, while the Indianapolis 500 is still a 500-mile race on a two-and-a-half mile oval. Indianapolis had one winner a year to cheer for and he went home the next day.

Now, there are three races, as well as the Pacers, the Fever, and the Colts to cheer for and spend money on. Bryant attended Festival events, the race and the Pacers' playoff game Sunday night.

He sounded impressed.

"The entire community is abuzz and knows what's going on and is supportive of it and involved in it and interested. You don't find that when you go to many larger metro areas," he said.

It is an advantage, a solid foundation for a city to build on, as it works to put the pizzazz back into a race and party known around the world.