The Rising Cost Of The Month Of May

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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.

George Phillips

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14 Responses to “The Rising Cost Of The Month Of May”

  1. Leigh O'Gorman Says:

    I believe a Sunday-only ticket for this weekend’s GP at Monaco comes in at $650.
    Of Indy and Monaco, me thinks I’d rather do the former… ;)

  2. The ticket price increase bothers me not one bit. Since something like 1998, tickets in the NE Vista have only gone up from $75 to (in 2014) $100, whereas I bet you’d find that average ticket prices to most major league sporting events have gone up by well over 50%, and maybe even 100% for equavalent MLB, NFL or NBA tickets. Race Day is still a good value for what you’re getting (access to a once-a-year historic sporting event), even if you’re sitting in what are soon going to be $175 Penthouse seats (seriously, the view they provide plus the dedicated Penthouse restrooms and concessions no more than 100-200 feet away from every seat, those seats are worth like $200 each, minimum…it’s crazy that they were $150 before).

    The parking thing, on the other hand, is a little more bothersome. From IMS’s standpoint, doubling prices makes total sense: if even 50.1% of the people who bought parking passes this year renew for next year, they are dollars ahead (not many, but still). Turn 3 parking was still probably undervalued this year at $75 for a “front row” spot (I assume those are the ones closest to the viewing mounds). Split 4 ways for a carload of people who are likely there to get loaded on Natty Light on top of the viewing mound and maybe take a pass through the Snake Pit for a few tunes from Afrojack (whoever that is…I am like 15 years too old to know), that’s still a pretty cheap party. $175…yeah, that’s a little rougher, but being able to sit and “watch” the race mere feet from your car, that is something that probably less than 0.5% of the crowd gets to do. That commands a premium. I imagine that those “front row parkers” are probably not also sitting in the grandstands, they’re staying within a couple hundred yards of their car/van/truck/pop-up tent, because that is where the beer and the grill are. Their overall race day still stays relatively cheap (it was just ridiculously cheap before, now it’s more properly priced…imagine being able to tailgate just behind the endzone at an NFL game and you’ll understand what I’m talking about).

    As for me, I’ll continue doing what I’ve always done: park in the Coke Lot (which is no further away from The Track than most of those pass-required lots) for precisely $0. Now, if they (that would be the Pepsi folks or whoever owns it, since IMS does not own that lot) start charging for parking over there, that’s when you’ll probably see widespread rioting and pandemonium. Well, more widespread rioting and pandemonium than you normally see in the Coke Lot, anyway…

  3. Mike Silver Says:

    I no longer go to Pacer games because of the cost of a ticket. Indy is still a bargain. The surprising thing to me was not all seats had an increase. Doing that may have spread the cost of each around and made each ticket a little less of a price jump. I was shocked that it has been 10 years since the last increase.

  4. We’ll be sitting in Stand A again for the 2nd year in a row. The $15 increase won’t deter us from coming again next year. $100 / seat is still a pretty good bargain. As others have pointed out, NFL tickets, and tickets to other 1 day events (NCAR) can run much higher. The seat is still the cheapest part of the weekend for me considering hotel, food, and gas for the 10 hour drive. The hike in parking hurts more on a matter of principal. Mostly because I really am a cheapskate and hate to pay for parking at sporting events.

  5. H.B. Donnelly Says:

    It’s also worth noting that a large portion of the Northeast Vista has gone away, so there goes a chunk of cash (though I’m assuming the folks who sat there are being “redistributed”, so to speak, into other empty seats). Perhaps that’s where a “party zone” (a la Daytona’s backstretch) and a good chunk of ADA seating might go.

    Given the speeds and excitement that seem to come with the DW12 at this track, I’d say it’s still worth it; the overhead shot of Turn 3 will tell the story on the pay-for-parking issue.

  6. Steve K Says:

    Sounds like the cost of an Ohio State Buckeye game but there are seven of those. They priced me out for the time being (Not sure it is wise long term to piss off 30 year old alumni, but what do I know). Sounds like IMS has done the same before I could even get there. Are Brickyard 400 tickets affordable?

  7. I found it an honor to recieve a letter from Jeff Belskus with an update on next year’s ticket prices. :)

    If my thinking is correct, I will probably be getting tickets in Section B next year because of some of the folks who are going to drop off because they think the price increase is too much. Then again, maybe not, but I will still make a request for B. Regardless of that, I am happy with my Section A seats.

  8. jhall14 Says:

    I concur with everyone else, the $85.00 – $100.00 is no big issue for me, in fact, well overdue. The parking does not bother me either, in fact, I look at it as a “guarantee” for parking on race day. Our parking remains the same in Lot 7 North 40 @ $25.00 for next year. Possibly it will make it easier to get in on race day than in the past, but I expect a total “cluster” this year. My worry is the casual fan. How will he/she take this. The greatest site their is, is for those stands to be filled. If the stands start looking like they do on the Brickyard, then maybe it was a mistake. Time will tell, however I feel really good that I have “paid it forward” with my kids. Hopefully others have done the same, and the world’s largest single day sporting event, will remain in tact.

  9. Savage Henry Says:

    I’m sure I’ll still be able to park in the Big Lots parking lot at 30th and Georgetown for $20 next year. They even have porto-potties there! Walking with the masses past the intersection of Show Us Your *** Ave and Cameltoe Way (I have pictures of the street sign) is an important part of the Indy experience.

  10. I had Indy season tickets for more than 10 years but had to give them up. Have had Brickyard tickets since the beginning. The decision to charge to park in the infield has me on the fence about continuing my brickyard tickets anyway. Any increase in the price for the ticket will probably be the last straw.

    Everything that was special about the track has been going away the last 10 years. How long will it be until you will not be able to bring your own beverages into the track? Concession prices have soared during this time as they did away with the volunteers. They have shrunk the infield. Trashed tradition.

    Bottom line, I am not willing to pay these higher/added fees. If I come back to the 500, its looking more and more like it makes sense to scalp a ticket the day of the race. I know others that already do this and get a pretty good price.

    Make any excuse you want. IMS is beginning to really gouge their fans. Any increase like this will reduce demand for their tickets. The speedway got some really bad advice for their money.

    • jhall14 Says:

      Obviously Bob F. has not been to very few other tracks. I paid face value, $160.00 each for 2 Daytona 500 and $140.00 each for 2 Busch Tickets on Saturday back when Gordon won his 1st Daytona 500. Go to Chicagoland or Kansas it’s $6-$7 bucks for a hot dog and cannot bring in any coolers. Say what you want, to keep 16th and Georgetown as pristine as it once was, and it is not there today, ticket prices needed to go up.

  11. $100 seems okay to me. If it were another race in the series it would be a problem, but not Indy. I’ve not been (too far!) but that’s about what I’d expect and hope to pay for other big ticket events.

    On the other hand, the parking. Are there other ways to the track or is it just a choice of car, taxi, or walking for miles? Is there a park and ride? If they used the extra parking fees towards hiring a fleet of buses to run back and forth to a free car park 10-20 minutes bus/coach drive away (and give them dedicated streets or lanes to skip the traffic), then it would make a lot of sense to put the on-site/nearby parking at a premium. Every year I read about horrendous traffic problems so perhaps it is something they should look at.

  12. Since the mid 80’s, long before I moved south, I quit taking a car to the Speedway. (I think the last time I did was probably 1984, and that was because my decision to go to the race was a last minute one.) Since then, I have always parked downtown and taken the bus to the track. I think when last I went in 2011, this cost us $25 each, round trip. Back when the Indy Metro bus system still handled the bus transport, it was well worth the money, as IndyGo had dedicated routes to and from the track and getting there and back was a breeze.

    Immediately before the 2011 race, this changed. Some court somewhere in Indiana decreed that it was no good for a public entity (IndyGo) to make a profit for providing a public service. When the private companies took over, the dedicated routes in and out ended, and the trip was a lot longer (particularly leaving), but it was still worth the convenience of not having to deal with the mass exodus leaving 16th and Georgetown.

    I’ve already reached the decision that if I decide to go to the 500 again, I won’t settle for less than penthouse seats regardless of cost. The construction that was done for F-1 in my extended absence from the track has made most of the seats in the lower deck on the main straightaway almost worthless. The sightlines simply do not justify the expense, at least if you want to see the racing action.

    My brother (who lives in Indy) is currently on the waiting list for Colts tix. He fully acknowledges that any trip to a Colts game, even a “stripped down” one, is laible to cost betweem $500 and $1000, depending on whether you add dinner to the game ticket and parking. And there are (at least) eight of those a year. So, no, I don’t begrudge the Speedway an increase in prices. The lower deck paddock seats I had in 2011 were, I beiieve, almost the same fare as they were in1987, albeit the 1987 tickets were handled through a tour agency and included breakfast (open bar,) bus to and from, box lunch, and a couple of other “extrras.”

    And, you’re exacly right, George, many of the updates ,mandated by the ADA are going to cost IMS some serious cash, and that’s before we even start talking about lights and other upgrades.

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