INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is giving race fans hope the Indianapolis 500 will take place with fans in the stands this May.
Last year, the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 was moved to August with no fans were allowed in the stands. This year, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske has said he hopes to hold the race with at least 250,000 fans. More than 170,000 tickets have already been sold.
Any capacity limits for the May 30 race will most likely be determined by the Marion County Public Health Department.
All of this is good news for long-time fans like Ryan Pickering. He lives in a house right near IMS.
“If everybody can get their vaccinations and the place can open open and feel like normal, it might be the first real, normal event we have post-COVID,” Pickering said. “If anybody can do it, it’ll be the Speedway and Roger Penske.”
After a few years of hosting big parties during the Indianapolis 500, Pickering thought 2020 would be the same. However, like a lot of things, the Indy 500 couldn’t escape the impact of the pandemic.
“That was a rough day when they moved it from May to August. It was an unprecedented thing,” Pickering said.
However, a year into the pandemic, organizations have figured some things out. Taking the right precautions and listening to health officials is the way events can take place safely. Visit Indy communications manager Nate Swick points to the NCAA tournament.
“We look at the success of the NCAA tournament. Obviously, we’re in the middle of it but right now, so far, so good,” Swick said. “We think this will once again serve as proof of concept and drawing that confidence to host bigger events.”
Businesses near the track are also taking notice of basketball fans in town, hoping it means the Indy 500 will once again take place in May with fans in the stands, even if there are some capacity limits.
“That’s 150,000 people. This place takes like 80 to fill up, so that’s great for us,” Mark Fodor, the general manager of O’Reilly’s Irish Pub and Resaurant Speedway, said.