The Rising Cost Of The Month Of May
If you’re a regular ticket holder to the Indianapolis 500, you may have already received a letter from IMS President Jeff Belskus outlining the ticket price increases for 2014. Curt Cavin reported this past weekend that ticket prices for most seats would be going up “about” 15%, depending where your seats are located. My seats in Stand A are jumping from $85 currently to $100 next year. That’s a 17.6% increase, but that’s OK. Based on my trip over to Stand A last weekend – I think I’m going to like my new seats, although my exact section was closed off.
I don’t begrudge The Speedway for going up on ticket prices. The prices had held steady for ten years, so you knew it was coming at some point. Quite frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t go up more; considering how much time has elapsed since the last increase.
IMS has a huge upcoming expense – not the possibility of putting up lights or the much-needed upgrade to HD video boards. They have to get the century-old facility up to meet the strict requirements of the Americans with Disability Act; and they have about two years to do so – probably before the 2015 race. This includes wheelchair seating in the grandstands, making the restrooms wheelchair accessible and adjustments to parking areas. This also encompasses making the viewing mounds wheelchair accessible as well as modernizing wheelchair ramps throughout the facility. This is a massive expense and is part of the $100 Million funding being provided by the Indiana Legislature.
I also understand that everything costs. There are many costs involved with running that enormous facility – including labor costs. During the last price increase, minimum wage was $5.50 an hour. It has now increased to $7.25 an hour. There are high maintenance costs involved with a one-hundred and four year-old facility. I know from being at IMS this past December that Stand E was completely torn down and rebuilt over the winter. That didn’t happen for free.
So, do I like having to pay fifteen dollars more for my seat next year? Of course not. But I understand the need for a price hike. It probably should have been done a few years earlier.
Where I think there is a problem is the significant jump in parking fees. One of the best deals ever went away this year, when IMS officials decided to charge for infield parking. You knew at some time this would go away. I always thought it was strange that they charged for parking outside the facility, but allowed fans to park inside the track for free. Before the days of the Formula One infield road course and the MotoGP portion that is now inside Turn One, they could cram a lot of public parking into the facility. I always liked having access to my car throughout the day, in case I bought souvenirs that I didn’t want to lug around.
As time went on, more and more public parking evaporated where there was just a little left in Turn Three. You couldn’t get any further away from the areas of interest than there, but hey – it was still free and you still had access to your car. That changed this year when IMS decided to sell infield parking permits to fans. The jump from free was steep – $75 for “front row” parking (I still don’t know what that means) or $25 for other.
I don’t know what the $25 permit got you, but I think most got the $75 one. To my surprise, I understand that they sold out rather quickly. That told IMS there was a big demand. But if you didn’t care to pay that price, you could still get a great spot at an IMS lot outside the track at either across the street from Turn One, or across from Turn Four or north of the track for a cheaper rate. Again, my only problem with those spaces is that once you leave your car in the morning – you can’t get to it until you have left for the day.
For next year, things are different. This is where the sticker shock is. If you have a $20 space outside Turn One for Sunday’s race, the same spot will cost you $40 next year. Seriously? They’re doubling the rates? That infield spot that everyone grumbled about as they coughed up $75 for the first time ever? That’ll cost you $125 next year. The $25 spot for this year? It’s doubled to $50 next year. It sort of makes you wonder what they intend to do with the best deal in sports – the $100 Bronze Badge.
So for a family of four to park in the infield and sit in Stand A next year, it will cost $525, when just two years earlier it cost just $340. That’s a very significant increase – 64.7% to be exact. That’s before you’ve bought the first program, souvenir, tenderloin or beer. Chances are, that family of four next year will spend enough in ancillary items, where that family will spend close to $700 to attend next year’s race – and that’s assuming they live in the local area and don’t spend a lot in gas or a hotel room and all the costs associated with travel. That’s a substantial sum.
My fear is that it won’t stop there. If another increase is announced for next year, it’ll be a situation where attending the Indianapolis 500 will be cost-prohibitive for the average family. It’ll be like attending an NFL game, where only the very wealthy or those benefitting from a corporate relationship can attend. I would hate to see it come to that.
The fans that go to the Indianapolis 500 each and every year are very knowledgeable and passionate about the event. It is a Hoosier tradition still mostly attended by Hoosiers – we outsiders are lucky enough that they welcome us to the fold as well. If the trend continues however, it could soon evolve into a bunch of corporate suits and yuppies sitting trackside, who will have no idea what they are watching. In the meantime, those of us who love and treasure this event will be priced out of the gates.
But that’s a worse-case scenario. Very few fans will balk at the increase in ticket prices. I’ll cough up an extra $15 per ticket for my four tickets and deal with it. Those that park outside the track for $20, will also spend the $40 for next year. Why? Because it’s the greatest event of the year and each race becomes a memory of a lifetime. It’s still worth it.