The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a major landmark and cultural hub in the city of Indianapolis for many years. Since the inception of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911, the track has drawn millions of fans from across the globe. Although the track has been completely revamped and modernized in recent years, it is still considered one of the most iconic sports venues in the United States.
As a devoted sports fan and history buff, I was very excited to learn that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was embarking on a major overhaul and expansion project that would not only reimagine the track but also the entire community surrounding it. The project was initially conceived back in 2016 and broke ground earlier this year. Now that the stadium and track are nearing completion, it’s time for us to take a look and see how the project turned out.
What Is The Purpose Of The Work?
Conceived and championed by Mayor Greg Ballard, the project team consisted of state and local officials, business leaders, and architects who united to create a world-class sports and entertainment venue that would not only serve as the home of the Indianapolis 500 but also the NFL, Major League Baseball, and more.
The stadium itself is an intimate, 25,000-seat structure that features an open-air design with a retractable roof. Although it was initially designed as a single-purpose stadium (that is, to host the Indy 500 or other major sporting events), it now also serves as the home of the school-board-approved IMLS Indy Girls High School varsity football team. The venue is also suitable for a wide array of exhibitions and other major gatherings, from conventions to festivals.
The project also saw the construction of a brand-new community downtown, which we will examine in greater detail below.
What Areas Of The City Did The Work Impact?
When the project broke ground earlier this year, this reporter’s first impression was that the construction crews seemed to be working around the clock. The work was visible in almost every nook and cranny across the city, be it on the streets or in people’s front yards. The stadium and track are visible from I-70, I-65, and the Circle Central Parking Lane, which itself is visible from the nearby intersection of Pennsylvania and Michigan Streets.
When construction on the stadium wrapped up, the city had a brand-new, fully equipped track and stadium. The renovations and expansions saw the addition of a state-of-the-art sound system, wider sidewalks, upgraded concession stands, and plentiful plaza space. The result was that the city saw a spark of entrepreneurship, with several businesses opening up in the vicinity of the stadium, including a gourmet pizza parlor, a craft beer garden, and a steakhouse.
As it turned out, the community around the stadium and track were profoundly impacted by the construction project. This reporter personally witnessed thousands of parking spots get removed as part of the construction, with residents and visitors forced to find alternative parking spaces throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Downtown Indy Community
The community around the stadium and track was also significantly expanded as part of the project. The Ballard forum at the Heart of Downtown was one of the more dazzling exhibits, featuring a sparkling fountain and a fire pit, along with several breathtaking sculptures by local artists.
The Indy Complex, which brims with life and activity, saw the addition of new bridges, restrooms, and water towers, while other neighborhoods, including Charm, Historic Indianapolis, and Noble Township, saw the renewal of their neighborhood patches, with new sidewalks, parking spaces, and traffic stops.
The Renewal project team, headed by Renaissance Realty and Development Group, was responsible for reviving the downtown area near the stadium. This boulevard shopping district draws on the iconic Indy 500 logo, with restaurants, bars, and art galleries representing the entirety of the marvelous feast that is the Indianapolis 500. The area’s renaissance began with the addition of The Field at the Heart of Downtown in 2017, a 24-story sculpture by Christo that blended into the fountain atrium common to Ballard and the stadium. With its collection of modern artworks by local and national artists, the Field at the Heart of Downtown now acts as a metaphorical gateway to the entire downtown community.
How Was The Transportation Impacts?
The transportation impacts of the project were mostly good. The only negative impact came from the closure of a major sidewalk running along Pennsylvania Street, between Michigan and Monroe Streets, which had to be closed down during construction. The construction happens on game days (this reporter missed a game day once due to mishandled baggage), which means that the roadway was closed to traffic during that time.
Overall, How Was The Project Impactful?
Overall, the project has been a resounding success. The stadium is a landmark that will be seen for generations to come. The overall revitalization of the downtown area is also quite remarkable and is certainly a victory for Mayor Ballard and the people of Indianapolis.
The only downside to the project is that it ended up taking so long. The construction started in 2016 and did not finish till this fall. The wait is probably the price one has to pay for having the world’s most welcoming sports stadium.