INDIANAPOLIS — Several state senators praised the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a global icon for Indiana as they endorsed a plan Thursday to provide up to $100 million in public funding toward improvements at the track.
The proposal approved 11-0 by the Senate Appropriations Committee would create a motor sports investment district to collect existing sales, income and corporate taxes generated from IMS property to help finance the planned work.
That district would draw up to $5 million a year from tax collections to pay off bonds over a 20-year period, with the speedway paying about $2 million a year.
Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus said money from the taxing district would help the track obtain financing for a needed modernization.
"Our historical presence and our age are great, but we were built 104 years ago as well, so we are dealing with a facility of that age," he said.
Belskus told the committee that track officials are working on plans for various projects that include $65 million in building, grandstand and traffic improvements, $10 million for better access for the disabled, $25 million for new video boards and $20 million toward lighting for the possible addition of night races.
While the home of IndyCar's Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR's Brickyard 400 has never sought public funding before, Belskus said newer tracks built in nearby states with state or local subsidies have some better amenities that have drawn away some race fans that used to travel to Indianapolis.
A similar taxing district in downtown Indianapolis has for years helped fund the agency that runs Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Indiana Convention Center.
None of the Appropriations Committee members raised doubts about the plan during the hearing, and committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he believed the state would be a winner in the deal.
"This is an investment which will actually prove profitable for the state in terms of taxes collected based on the successes that I expect the speedway to accomplish," Kenley said. " ... I think the speedway is going to make this a good partnership with the state."
The proposal now goes to the full Senate for consideration and would also need House approval to take effect.
Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, said all parts the state had significant motor sports businesses because of the speedway's presence. He recalled adding his first Indianapolis 500 more than 60 years ago and frequently during overseas trips having people recognize Indiana because of the track.
"Not only is it iconic in nature as the speedway and what it means to our state on an economic basis, it's the pride in being a Hoosier by saying we have the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 500," Wyss said.