- The Indianapolis 500 will cap their attendance at 40% of capacity.
- Due to the large size of the facility that will mean 135,000 fans can attend.
- Speedway owner Roger Penske was hoping for as many as 250,000 fans after the event was run on a closed track in 2020.
The Indianapolis 500 will be run at 40% capacity this year. The 105th running of the race on May 30 will have approximately 135,000 fans in attendance. Due to the sheer size of the track–it is the largest sporting facility in the world with 250,000 grandstand seats and a full property capacity of nearly 400,000–even at 40% capacity it will be by far the world’s largest sporting event to date during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske had hoped that as many as 250,000 fans could attend the 2021 race. The 2020 race was delayed until August 23 and due to a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus in the area was ultimately held without fans after some plans were made to allow a limited number of spectators. When Penske talked about the prospects for a live crowd earlier this year he cited the 3.1% COVID positivity rate in Marion County, Indiana–home of the speedway:
“It’s way down and I think with that (the crowd) will hopefully be a big number. That’s what our hope is, but what we’ve done in the meantime we’ve been doing vaccinations (at IMS). We did 16,000 in three days and we’re getting ready to do a mass vaccination in April. We haven’t worked out the details yet with the state, but we think there’s an opportunity to make a big impact here, where we could give back to the community.”
“With the size of our facility and what we were able to accomplish just in three days, we think we can really help this whole area here — the city of Indianapolis and the surrounding counties.”
The 135,000 capacity as well as the track’s health and safety plan has been approved by the Marion County health department. Here’s how the press release announcing the revised spectator count explained what will happen on race day:
Fans will attend the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, with up to 40 percent of venue capacity permitted, totaling approximately 135,000 fans. The plan for the Sunday, May 30 race at the world’s largest sporting facility was developed in close consultation with state and local health officials and has been approved by the Marion County Public Health Department.
In addition to the limited capacity a number of other steps will be taken to further enhance safety standards:
- Face coverings will be required and enforced throughout the venue.
- Temperature checks will be administered upon public gate entry.
- There will be spacing between customer groups in the grandstands. In addition, spacing will be enforced throughout the venue.
- Spectator viewing mounds will be closed to the general public throughout the Month of May, with no Race Day General Admission tickets sold.
- Frequent cleaning and sanitation processes will be in place, with hand sanitizer and washing stations readily available.
In addition, the speedway cancelled a number of ancillary events and is offering options for fans to roll over their tickets to the 2022 race:
- Fans who do not currently have Indy 500 tickets and are interested in attending can apply online at IMS.com. If additional tickets are available, these fans will be given first opportunity to finalize purchases.
- Tickets for all other on-track days remain available, and the same health precautions for gate entry and grandstand access will be in place.
- With no General Admission access to the infield during the Month of May, the Friday, May 28 Carb Day concert, the Saturday, May 29 Legends Day concert and the Sunday, May 30 Snake Pit concert have all been canceled.
- IMS customers still have the option to roll their 2021 purchase into 2022, receiving an IMS event credit rather than attending this year’s race.
- A fan FAQ with additional details about Month of May and Indy 500 items has been posted to IMS.com/PlanAhead.
- Fans will continue to receive ongoing event information and plan-ahead updates from IMS in the weeks leading into the race.
IMS EXECUTIVES AND LOCAL POLITICIANS REACT TO THE PLAN
Despite the number that will be able to attend the 2021 Indy 500 falling far short of what Roger Penske had hoped track officials still hit a tone of gratitude and relief in their comments. First, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles:
“Our fans mean everything to us, and we can’t wait to welcome them ‘Back Home Again’ for this year’s Indy 500. The city and state have worked with us to identify the appropriate health and safety precautions so that we can successfully host a limited but very enthusiastic crowd. The health and safety of everyone coming to IMS, along with Central Indiana and the Hoosier State, have been paramount throughout this process.”
Penske Entertainment President & CEO Mark Miles urged fans to do the intelligent thing and get vaccinated ASAP:
“The number-one thing fans can do to ensure a great Race Day is get vaccinated as quickly as possible. We continue to offer vaccinations at IMS and will be extending our mass vaccination clinic throughout the Month of May. This is all part of the effort to continue getting Indiana back on track.”
Dr. Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department further emphasized the wisdom of vaccination:
“The COVID-19 vaccine is the best tool we have to help us return to the activities we love and have missed over the last year, and every day, more members of our community receive the lifesaving protection it offers thanks in part to community partners like Roger Penske and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Our vaccination rates, combined with the outdoor nature of the event, make it possible for fans to return to these hallowed grounds for the Indy 500 this year. We are grateful to the IMS team for their collaboration throughout this planning process and appreciate their work to ensure vaccines reach our neighbors. I continue to invite everyone in our community 16 and older to visit ourshot.in.gov or call 2-1-1 to sign up for the vaccine.”
The speedway has hosted vaccination days and will increase the schedule going forward. They’ll also bankroll a media campaign in hopes to get some of the state’s dimmer bulbs into a vaccination station:
In addition to the planned vaccination days at IMS from April 24-30, vaccinations will now be available on select days from May 1-27, with additional details forthcoming. IMS and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will unveil a media campaign to encourage Race Day attendees – and all Hoosiers – to get vaccinated immediately.
Local politicians and government officials also shared their thoughts starting with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb:
“Roger Penske and everyone associated with Penske Entertainment and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been incredible partners with us throughout the pandemic. It is high time for fans to return to the greatest motor speedway in the world with this safety plan in place. We’re going to have a great Month of May, so let’s go racing.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett sounded a similar tone and included himself in the ‘get vaccinated’ refrain:
“Today’s announcement demonstrates our continued commitment to safely hosting major events and showcases the strong collaboration between the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and public health partners. We’re excited to have Race Day back in May, welcoming fans as we continue to promote vaccination for residents and visitors alike.”
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box gave props to IMS for their health and safety plan:
“IMS has been thoughtful and thorough in its approach to ensuring the safety of fans, teams and all who will visit the Speedway during the Month of May. The organization’s commitment to getting thousands of Hoosiers vaccinated is helping us all with a return to normalcy. The state Department of Health is grateful for the efforts of IMS and its partners.”
Indianapolis TV station WISH-TV gave this account of other large sporting events that have been held since the start of the pandemic:
The speedway is the largest sporting facility in the world with more than 250,000 grandstand seats and the ability to host close to 400,000 on race day throughout the entire property. In March, track and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said that 170,000 tickets had been sold for the 2021 race. Boles said Wednesday that attendance will be capped at 135,000. That will make it the world’s largest sporting event to date during the pandemic. The Alabama spring football game last weekend hosted 47,218 fans, nearly 10,000 more than a recent Texas Rangers baseball game; an Australian Rules cricket match in Melbourne drew 51,723 in March.
Hopefully, the 2022 race will be back to the 400,000 full capacity figure.