Up to 87.500 fans will descend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in just over a month, as Indy 500 officials announced plans for allowing up to 25% capacity at the storied race on August 23.
While the number would be the smallest attendance figure in more than 100 years, it would be – by a wide margin – the largest attendance event in the United States since government restrictions were put into place due to the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Race officials announced the plans for the event Tuesday, after gauging responses from existing ticket-holders and their plans on attendance or seeking a refund. Tickets will be available for purchase through Friday.
“We will welcome fans back, and we have an aggressive plan in place, which has been developed through collaboration with national, state and local health experts,” says Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles. “Our outdoor facility is mammoth, and with attendance of about 25%, it will certainly look different this year.”
Fans attending will be provided a mask and hand sanitizer upon entry for the race, and have their temperatures checked. Masks will be required for entry and while roaming the concourse areas. The track says it will release its full 95-page health and safety plan this week for those interested in a deeper understanding.
Amid the pandemic, auto racing has been one of the first large-scale events to welcome fans back, albeit in a reduced capacity. With the NBA and NHL set to return to action with no fans in attendance and Major League Baseball without fans at least for the start of its season this week, motor sports have been one of the limited choices available for live and in-person entertainment. NASCAR events in Tennessee and Texas have generated crowds in excess of 20,000 of late, according to event organizers.
After its initial postponement, event organizers have been steadfast that the Indy 500 would be held – but only if people could attend. Initially, hopes had been for a crowd of about 50% – well over 150,000 at the cavernous facility – but that number was revised downward after fans responded to the survey gauging their interest.
“We’re determined to do whatever we need to do, even if it’s non-traditional, to make this the best possible experience during the pandemic,” Miles told IndyStar on June 26. “We feel like it’s our responsibility to do that, and we hope people will trust us to look out for the greater good here.”
Photo: Scott Dixon takes a victory lap after the 2008 Indianapolis 500. Credit: Chuck Carroll via Wikimedia Commons