By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Editor
The Indianapolis 500 is expected to be the biggest sporting event in the world since the start of the pandemic with 135,000 spectators allowed to attend “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” next month.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Wednesday it has worked with the Marion County Public Health Department to determine that 40% of venues capacity can attend the May 30 race over Memorial Day weekend. The speedway is the largest sports facility in the world with more than 250,000 grandstand seats and the capacity to accommodate nearly 400,000 on race day across the property.
The attendance figure was determined after Indianapolis hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March and April with limited attendance. The NCAA has cleared 8,000 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium for the April 5 men’s championship game.
Alabama’s spring football game last weekend drew 47,218 fans, nearly 10,000 more than a recent Texas Rangers baseball game; an Australian Rules cricket match in Melbourne drew 51,723 players in March.
Roger Penske, in his second year as owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had hoped for full participation, but IndyCar and Speedway officials are proud of the stage ahead.
“This event and this place means a lot to everyone we see and hear every day, whether they are Hoosiers or racing fans around the world,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. Hurry.
“We feel a real responsibility to protect this heritage and develop it and have the race,” said Miles. “We’re ready to take the next step to bring the economy back and a lot of that in this city and this state is driven by sporting events that have been closed for so many months. March Madness has been incredibly successful, c ‘is the next step and it turns out that it will probably be the biggest sporting event of the year.
The speedway will be open to spectators every day where cars will be on the track starting from the road event on May 15th. Observation mounds in the infield will be closed and general admission tickets will not be available.
The rowdy “Snake Pit” in the infield will be closed and all traditional concerts will take place, including Carb Day and Legends Day. There will be seats in the suites and the pagoda will be open to those with tickets, but the halfway will be closed.
The seats in the gallery will be socially distanced; fans will have the option of returning their tickets for credit to their account.
Face coverings will be required on the track property and temperature checks will be carried out at the entrances. IMS will also be expanding its vaccination clinics until the end of May with the option for spectators to get vaccinated on the highways throughout the month.
Miles expected approximately 60% of those present will have been vaccinated. IMS has vaccinated around 100,000 people since it started operating as a site.
“Roger Penske and everyone associated with Penske Entertainment and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been incredible partners with us throughout the pandemic,” said Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. “It is high time that fans returned to the world’s greatest racing circuit with this safety plan in place.
Miles said 90% of the IndyCar paddock was vaccinated when the season opened last Sunday and there were two more opportunities for competitors to get shot before the race started on the speedway. Those who choose not to be vaccinated before the track opens on May 18 for the preparations for the Indy 500 will have to undergo daily COVID-19 tests.
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