“He (IMS CEO Mark Miles) sent an email to every company employee asking for recommendations”
Curt Cavin for the Indianapolis Star
Admittedly, I am not an employee of Hulman & Co. I am simply a lifelong fan of the Indianapolis 500 and just happen to be sitting on an “idea list” for the Speedway that has been building in my Evernote account over the past 2 years. I attended my 31st straight race this year and am still on pace to fulfill one lifetime goal of being interviewed by the local news for dragging my old self up the stands for 75+ straight Indy 500’s. My 11-year old son also attended his first race this year. The tradition continues!
Nothing fancy here; simply a list entitled “Indy 500 Ideas”. Some totally random, some off the wall, but all well intentioned. Enjoy!
- Georgia Street. Take advantage of this new infrastructure built for the Super Bowl. The IMS should host an Indy 500 village downtown with concerts, etc. Fans can enjoy daytime activities at the Speedway and head downtown to continue the party at night.
- Zip Lines. Ok, so you made this happen in 2013…kind of. Zip line riders, especially at the Speedway, want a thrill. That little structure in Turn 4 this year isn’t going to cut it. Let someone come in and construct a zip line that carries fans over the yard of bricks behind the Pagoda. Or let fans zip line over the concert crowd on Carb Day.
- The IMS needs a permanent playground. My wife and I enjoy bringing the little ones on practice days in May, but track activity and current “family” activities organized at the track don’t keep their attention all day. There is plenty of room to play with inside the track. Why not build a playground? Better yet, make it a sprayground that would also get used by adults on the hot days. It doesn’t matter if some families might come and ignore track activity for the day. Simply indoctrinating their kids to the IMS pilgrimage each May is a step in the right direction. Once kids are old enough to appreciate the cars, they’ll already be accustomed to spending their May weekends at the track.
- Sticking to the family appeal, why not give the IMS Museum a makeover? Admittedly I haven’t visited in several years, but there really isn’t much kid appeal in the current museum. The IMS maintains a presence at the Children’s Museum. Why not let them collaborate on new kid-friendly, interactive exhibits at the IMS.
- Pictures with the Borg Warner trophy. Jim Irsay did this one right with the Super Bowl trophy. Give fans an opportunity to get up and personal with the real thing. Maybe also a museum idea, to build an interactive station that lets you “place your face” on the trophy. See what you look like “Borg-Warner
- Speaking of Jim Irsay, put him in charge of an annual contest or activity. Only if he wears his Master of Ceremonies top hat though.
- Food trucks. Indianapolis’ food trucks hold monthly “Cluster Truck” events downtown. Organize a Cluster Truck during an open day at the IMS next May. Foodies and race fans unite!
- One word: Turbo! I’m sure the blame falls on Hollywood’s side, but shame on them for not timing the release of the movie on Memorial Day this year. There is still an opportunity to take advantage of the movie at IMS. Take the playground idea and let DreamWorks come in and build a Disney-esque interactive playground featuring the movie. Or do the same with a new kid’s exhibit in the museum. This might also create a true year round attraction for families.
- Take a note from the Super Bowl and Final Four fan “experiences”. The IMS could do a better job organizing true experience activities. Provide hands-on activities like getting to change tires on a real Indy Car. Build a “tricycle track” for little ones that includes the bricks and all. Create something so over the top and awesome, you get to charge extra for fans wanting to “experience” it.
- Built a playground for kids? Now build one for the adults. A “vintage” playground with large swings and a merry-go-round would certainly be appreciated by adults too.
- IMS = Innovation. “The Indianapolis 500 is a laboratory for innovation”, Jack Arute. Take advantage of the track’s place in automotive innovation. Organize an annual automotive/motorsports innovation awards. Hold the ceremony at the track during May. Give others in the racing and automotive world a reason to make the trek to Indy even if they are not directly tied to the Indy 500.
- Motorsports incubator. Develop a startup incubator for the motorsports industry that operates on the IMS’ grounds or down the road on Main Street. Work with the town of Speedway to further develop a community that already leads the way in this field. This year’s Innovation Showcase is being held at the Dallara Factory in July. What if tech startups, motorsports safety, clean tech, automotive engineers, etc all shared an incubator space to work on developments that benefit the IMS and industry as a whole.
- Work with the city’s tech and startup communities to help make the incubator happen. Connect the new tech in Indy to the business of auto sports. Verge Indy and Tech Point could be great resources here.
- Concerts. I love the change the IMS made in recent years to move Carb Day to Friday during the month of May. This has really helped boost attendance; not only for track activities that day, but also for the headliner concerts that have been arranged (i.e. Kid Rock, Poison). Why not take advantage of this concert venue the rest of the year? In the summer of 2000, I had the privilege of working security down at the Kentucky Speedway for Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium Tour. The crowd was 60,000 strong and they put on a great event. Why let Lucas Oil Stadium get all the mega-crowd fun when it comes to stand alone concerts? Bring Kenny Chesney and company to the Speedway one summer. Let U2 rock the Brickyard. Organize a large outdoor music festival for the summer. SnakePit Fest anyone? The track is certainly used to large, raucous crowds. 50,000+ for a summer concert would be easy to manage.
- Triathlon. Drivers such as Tony Kanaan are active triathletes in the offseason. Organize a summer triathlon at some point in the offseason (if possible due to seasonal weather). Ideally active drivers are involved. If not, hold one in the summer anyway. Contain the whole event on the grounds of the Speedway if possible.
- Photo Booths. I don’t remember seeing these, but work with the Social Media Garage to set up photo stations and photo booths around the track and outside along 16th and Georgetown. Don’t just provide fans stations to take pictures of themselves that can be shared on social sites, but also provide goofy props, etc in the booths. Every one of all ages loves those little plastic racing helmets!
- An interactive art wall. At Big Car’s Service Center on the West side, they’ve built a chalk wall that lets people list what they want to do “Before I Die…” Something similar at the track could prompt fans to list their favorite track tradition, etc. Yes, this could invite graffiti and vulgarity on certain days, but place it front and center near the pagoda which might cut down on shenanigans. Or simply don’t put it up on Carb Day, using the extra time to prepare it for exhibit on race day.
- Repurposed flags, banners from the Speedway. Work with local organization People for Urban Progress (PUP) to help them repurpose the used signs and banners from each race. PUP is already working with the old RCA Dome roof and Super Bowl banners. A race collection could also be sold in the IMS gift shops.
- Marketing Summit for IndyCar. Indianapolis is a national hub for marketing technology (i.e. ExactTarget). Tap into this resource and organize an IndyCar industry marketing summit for race teams and others involved in the industry. The event could be held at the IMS and include conference session and exhibits. Increasing the marketing skills and power of IndyCar teams means increasing the entire league’s efforts.
- Arts Community. Tap into Indy’s arts community and hold art contests where entries are inspired by the Speedway and/or the Indianapolis 500.
- The Indie Arts & Vintage Marketplace is also growing in popularity. Organize an annual “collector’s road show” at the track. This could be a big show on the IMS ground for Indy 500 memorabilia collectors, etc.
- X-Games. Final, random thought. It could be pretty cool if ESPN’s Summer X-Games were held on the grounds of the Speedway.
Whatever changes you decide to make this offseason, I am confident the IMS will continue to build and improve year after year. I look forward to Indianapolis 500 #32 in 2014. You’ll find me in my seats up in J Stand.