The first thing you notice about Indianapolis during the Indy 500 weekend is the omnipresence of the event within the city. It’s not just another event but rather a part of the very fabric of the city. Banners, signage and all other forms of Indy 500 promotion are evident, but it’s more than that. You overhear conversations about the race itself, the parade leading up to the race and what events and parties everyone will be attending surrounding the race. Hotels are packed, but customer service is of the utmost importance. Hotels know the Indy 500 puts heads in beds, and they must ensure the guests feel important. Sure, the history and pageantry of the 500 has a lot to do with its success, and the fans traveling in from around the world certainly add more prestige, but Indianapolis uses the event as the perfect example of how great the city can be. That’s what propels the Indy 500 into iconic status.
A study from 2010-2012 found the Indy 500 brought more than $510 million annually to Indianapolis, as well as 6,200 direct and indirect jobs. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500, holds three race events annually, which contribute $145 million in visitor spending to the city, including $63.9 million from the Indy 500 alone.The average hotel room night costs $129.00 in Indianapolis throughout the year, however over the race weekend, Indianapolis hotels bring in more than $8.2 million. Assuming all 33,000 metro area rooms are booked, that’s more than $248 a night. Clearly the racing industry is important to Indianapolis, and that’s a good thing for the event as the care those around the city devote to it pays off in the fan experience. The city enhances the race weekend experience by building events around the 500 for visitors.
Each year, Indianapolis stages a parade the Saturday before the race. Celebrities, city dignitaries and the race’s 33 drivers make their way around the city as tens of thousands look on. The Snakepit Ball is treated like the Oscars by the local media, complete with a red carpet extravaganza leading into the event. Tickets are steep ($275), but the price includes a concert, food and drinks, plus hobnobbing with the celebrities who attend the gala. If the Snakepit Ball isn’t your brand of fun, there are several other avenues to explore within the city.
Restaurants run specials relating to the 500. Museums are open for business. Bars are stocked. There are 7,100 hotel rooms in downtown Indianapolis, many connected to the conference center and almost all are within walking distance to every major attraction. Lucas Oil Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl XLVI, is one of the marquee NFL stadiums in the country. Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers, was named “best of the best” among venues for the four major professional sports by The Ultimate Sports Road Trip. Both venues offers tours, though the Pacers were in the playoffs at the time of this year’s race, and tickets to the Eastern Conference Finals were a hot item.The JW Marriott built its largest property in the world in the city leading up to the Super Bowl, and it features one of the hottest restaurants in the city. The Alexander, a Dolce-owned boutique hotel, sits across the street from Lucas Oil, and has a killer bar over looking the city.
Indianapolis has more than the 500 (way more, in fact), but what puts the city on the global sports map is the famed brickyard, and the city, its vendors and citizens understand what that means. One trip to the Indy 500 will have you hooked. The city is walkable, the people are friendly and the race weekend experience is truly unique.