In late 2019, the International Speedway Corporation (ISC), the company which owns and operates the World Famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the annual INDYCAR racing series, released its year-end financials. The report showed a decline in revenue and an increase in operating costs for ISC. This led to the announcement that the speedway would close in May 2021. With the pandemic as the primary cause for the fall off in racing, many have wondered if the closure of the Speedway is just a rumour or if it is indeed true. Is the I30 Speedway really closing?
Will 2021 Be My Last Visit To The I30?
It’s been an absolute pleasure driving and racing at the I30 over the past seven years. In 2021, my last year there, I got to see a lot of great racing and make a lot of great memories. On the negative side, the pandemic put the kibosh on a lot of things including tourism, and large gatherings, including sporting events. The Speedway itself closed its gates for the last time on May 4th, and the announcement was made the next day that the speedway would close in 2021. Unfortunately, the pandemic never did leave us, and the speedway hasn’t been the same since. Even prior to the pandemic, the track had started to lose fans, and there were fears it could lose another 500,000 in 2021. With the pandemic, those fears were realised. As of right now, there are no plans to reopen the track. It is a sad day for motor sports in general, and motorsport fans in particular. It also brings fear of the unknown. It’s uncertain what will happen to the track now that it is abandoned, and with Covid restrictions easing, it’s conceivable that it could become a ghost town. When I spoke with a representative from ISC, they stated that the track would remain closed until at least the summer of 2021, likely longer. One thing is for sure: the I30 will never be the same again.
Reasons For The I30 Closure
Revenue from gates, suites, and restaurants at the I30 declined by 31% in 2020 from 2019. The track recorded $49.5 million in net revenue in 2019, down to $27.3 million in 2020. While the reasons for the decline aren’t completely clear, the drop in attendance is likely a contributing factor. In 2019, the track recorded 736,000 average daily visitors, down to 534,000 in 2020. Similarly, total food and beverage sales fell by 14% in 2020 from 2019 (down to $27.6 million from $32.8 million). The Indianapolis business community, as well as the general public, were deeply saddened by this news. There were numerous stories of fans who had to drive hundreds of miles just to see a race, and many of them were forced to watch from home. The lack of on-site entertainment, both in terms of quality and quantity, was also lamented. It seems that the I30 is struggling to stay relevant in today’s world, and it shows in its sales figures.
While the exact reasons for the I30 closure are still unknown, it’s clear that the Indianapolis-based sports and entertainment corporation is facing an uphill battle.
The fact that the I30 is owned by a for-profit corporation means it’s ultimately seeking to make a profit. This is a stark contrast to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is owned by the city and operated by the Indiana Sports Corporation, a not-for-profit entity which promotes tourism in the area. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its for-profit status, the I30 board has approved a series of cost-cutting measures, including reductions in food and beverage service, and a rollback of vehicle rental fees. This has contributed to a 20% drop in operating costs at the track from 2019 to 2020. Despite this, average daily attendance has declined by 17%, and revenue from gates and suites has dropped by 32%. It’s evident that the I30 needs to change tack if it wants to remain relevant in today’s world, and that may mean finding a new primary audience beyond motorsports fans. The I30 board has decided to take a more leisurely approach this year, with smaller purses at each of the 20 race events, in an effort to regain the trust of the community. These smaller purses could prove to be the spark that the I30 needs to reignite interest and drive attendance back to where it was prior to the pandemic. If they want to remain a relevant track, the I30 board will need to be mindful of where they invest their efforts, and the long-term health of the track, given the unique position it holds within the motorsports world.