They don't call it “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for no reason. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is home to the Memorial Day tradition the Indy 500, doesn't bring in fans by the hundreds or thousands like other sporting events. Rather, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a permanent seating capacity of roughly 257,000 and a total capacity of over 400,000 after counting those who park in the infield.
The Indy 500 is now an Indiana and American tradition that is over 100 years old with the first race being held in 1911. The race has become deeply embedded in the sports institutions of Indiana. Before each race, Jim Nabors sings, “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the ceremonial beginning to the race. After the race, the winning driver is treated to a bottle of milk that began as a tradition in 1933 when a local dairy farmer supplied the first bottle.
When going to the Indianapolis 500, guests can take advantage of activities scattered throughout the track in locations like Gasoline Alley, the main grandstand, as well as in the infield around the track's golf course.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Indy 500 patrons would be better off bringing their own food and beverage to the track. Since IMS allows coolers of a reasonable size, I almost always pack several Powerade drinks in my cooler in order to stay hydrated. I usually eat before and after the race in order to avoid the long lines, high prices, and having to eat out in the hot sun. After the race, be sure to visit the Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown Indianapolis for a good cool and relaxing meal.
There are really only three products I would recommend purchasing at the race- souvenirs, water, and sun screen.
I have yet to go to a sporting event that is better than the Indy 500 in terms of overall atmosphere. Since IMS is the largest sporting facility in the world, the atmosphere on race day is unmatched by any other event in the sporting industry. I firmly believe that everyone should make going to at least one Indy 500 during their lifetime a personal goal of theirs.
Not only does the Indy 500 provide an impressive atmosphere with over 400,000 spectators at the track, it also provides a great feel from the roar of the Indy Car engines. There is nothing like the first green flag lap of the Indy 500.
As of right now, the neighborhoods around IMS have seen better days. But, I am thoroughly impressed with the commitment that IMS and the city of Indianapolis are making to revitalize this area.
Already, as fans approach the track, they will notice the roads around IMS are decked out in checkered flags and other racing attire. In the future, the city is planning to construct a technology park on 16th Street which runs along turns 2 and 3. This development project will feature research in motorsports and will convert the iconic Bush Stadium into an apartment complex.
I also like the sense of pride neighbors of IMS have in the race. As I walked through the neighborhoods on my way to the race, I saw racing flags, banners, signs, and other decorations commemorating the annual race. It's good to see a city take pride in their sporting events.
The fans at the Indy 500 have both quantity and quality on their side. At the race, I sat behind a girl who had a tattoo commemorating the late Dan Wheldon. No matter what part of the track you are seated, you will always be next to a local Hoosier who knows the ins and outs of the race.
I also appreciate the loyalty that fans of the Indy 500 have shown both the track and the race. As someone who lives in the state of Indiana, I can easily say that the Indy 500 at IMS is one of the most valuable assets to those living in the Hoosier state. Indiana residents and fans of the Indy 500 do a great job marketing the race, keeping the traditions and prestige of the race alive, as well as making the race an international event, not just a local event.
When going to the Indy 500, don't expect many seats to be left empty because there simply won't be any empty seats. Indy 500 fans always take off from work the week and weekend closest to Memorial Day in order to take full advantage of the festivities surrounding this great race.
Getting to the Indy 500 is easily the worst part of the experience. Since the Indy 500 hosts almost 20 times what a typical basketball arena hosts, it is next to impossible to find an affordable place to park or to even get out of traffic in a reasonable time. In fact, my car died in traffic last year due to excessive road jam.
This past year, Indianapolis has finally taken the idea of light rail and commuter rail seriously. I don't think there is any question that IMS needs a light rail line serving it on race days. This would take an enormous amount of stress out of getting to the race which is really the only part of the experience I dread each year. It would also promote the idea of fans going downtown to celebrate after the race.
The best advice is to be patient and expect the worst getting in and out of the race. There will be a ton of traffic, so just resign yourself to that fact and come prepared with whatever soothing music you need in the car to get through it.
Going to the Indy 500 is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life. The Indy 500 isn't just a game, an event, or an activity. Rather, it is a way of life. The roar of the engines, the Hoosier traditions, and the excitement from the enormous amount of fans truly make IMS and the Indy 500 one of the best places to go for a sporting event. In fact, I have yet to visit a facility that can beat it.
I give one point to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their commitment to keeping their race track the best place to attend a sporting event. IMS is a huge facility that takes a huge amount of resources to maintain. IMS officials have always done a great job keeping the track clean, safe, and enjoyable on race day.
I give one point to the city of Indianapolis for making the Indy 500 all that it has become. Other cities have races, Indianapolis has the greatest spectacle in racing. No city does racing better than Indianapolis. Their commitment to motorsports is truly remarkable.
One additional point for the immensity of this event. Nowhere else in the world can you watch a live sporting event with 400,000 people.
I am not from Indiana, nor would I consider myself a race fan- but- I LOVE this sporting venue.
The night before the Indy 500 I opted for camping across the street in the county fairgrounds, which is a wild party for those brave enough to endure it. The parties settle down around 4am and the siren announcing race day goes off around 6am, so be prepared for a long day at the track if you partake.
The best part about the IMS is that you can bring in food and drink (including alcohol) and not have to buy a thing once inside. Just remember NO GLASS bottles. If you sit in the stands you are restricted to a small size cooler.
For the 500 race I sat in the infield with a group of friends. We brought lawn chairs and blankets, coolers and sunscreen. The view from the infield is sparse, if you really want to see the cars you can find a hill to sit on, but the sound of the race and people watching was just as enjoyable.
If you want a taste of the race there are plenty of food vendor serving up bbq sandwiches, turkey legs, fries, ice cream, etc.
There is not much to do closeby in the Speedway area just outside of the racetrack. The neighborhood seems a little run down.
Traffic was bad even arriving the night before the race to camp. Leaving the campgrounds after the race was also a nightmare.
The venue seemed entirely different for time trials compared to the actual 500, so I wanted to leave some comments about that as well.
Parking in the infield is about $15. There is little traffic to get in to the infield but a slow stream of cars to park in a spot. Its a far walk to get from the infield public parking to the stands, but you are free to roam around the infield, sit in designated stand areas, and walk around the concourses. It is a great way to see the entire venue and get up close the cars and drivers. It is not too crowded, but there is enough energy from race enthusiasts and casual spectators alike to make it a great experience.
Again, you can bring in food and drink, (no glass) but there are also concessions open to purchase meals and snacks.
To experience the venue itself, I recommend beating the crowds and the traffic and making the trip to IMS for time trials.
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