Changes Abound At IMS
Advertising. I guess it is just a sign of the times. Some purists will call it “selling out,” I think it is a way to pump some much-needed funding into upgrading our experience at IMS. If you were at the Grand Prix, you saw Angie’s List advertising everywhere—but if it adds another race to the schedule, more power to it! It takes big dollars to promote and put on an event to an ever-shrinking live viewing audience. The quality of televisions now make it so that you are almost there without the pain of parking, Eight dollar beer, and annoying people who stand up in front of you to block the view. So if advertising dollars are what will make my visit to IMS more enjoyable, I’m all for it. Someday you can tell your kids “I remember when it was plain old Gasoline Alley.”
That being said, I do enjoy the bigger HD video screens (brought to you by Panasonic), the upgraded seats in Pit Road Terrace (a few years too late for us, as we moved across the track a few years ago. I think there are some more changes on the horizon that will make the Speedway even better. Yes, I like the traditions, and you KNOW George is all about traditions, but maybe it is time to be more modern as our sport tries to draw and keep new fans.
One of the things IMS is doing to appeal to a younger crowd is the addition of some craft beers into the lineup. We searched for Hinchtown Hammer Down, at the track, but could not find it anywhere. We have been searching everywhere for it to no avail, so we went to the source—the brewery. I hear it is being sold outside the track this year, as there are a some new craft beer vendors in and outside the track.
I was happy to see the Firestone exhibit this year added a giant guitar to the monster trucks in their garage booth. I’m sure it is part of the campaign to draw in the country boys and their trucks. I like to think of it as a nod to their hometown, Nashville.
Shopping. There are a few changes apparent this year. I’m not sure if it will change for the Indianapolis 500 or the team trailers are a thing of the past. Penske had theirs, but the other large teams who usually had a merchandise trailer, opted for tents this year. I wonder if all the swapping around that happens during the Silly Season has something to do with it. What are you going to do with a bunch of shirts form a driver who has changed their team/number/sponsor (I’ll get into that later in the post). The driver-wear is a bit more generic and there are fewer offerings, but that just makes good business sense. I am still on the hunt for my now what is becoming annual, hunt for the Tony Kanaan die-cast. I know a lot of us are hoping for a Susan G. Komen Pippa Mann die-cast, judging by how fast they sold out the first hours of her Get Involved campaign.
The Museum Gift Shop has changed. The walls that held the display cases between the sides of the gift shops have been knocked down for more of an open mall feel. I am wondering what will happen when it gets really crowded on race day as that was where the cash registers were, but now they are along one of the walls. I saw some pretty great things—I do like the “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” t-shirt, but they don’t usually say that anymore, I guess it is an “Old School” shirt. It seemed like there were a lot more Snake-Pit themed items—from the usual “I survived the Snake Pit” to Frisbees and shot glasses. Another sign of the times, as IMS tries have offerings for a younger crowd.
Then you go outside—the SALE shop. Where all the past years’ driver-wear is on sale for 60% off or whatever is marked on the tag. Feeling nostalgic, I nabbed some great stuff in there. Since Ryan Briscoe and Josef Newgarden have been some of my favorites, I scored t-shirts from last year for 60% off. It’s worth a visit to the bargain store.
All in all, I had a great weekend and traditional as George is, I didn’t hear a lot of grumbling about the changes. We both realize that in order to keep the landmark that holds such a special place in our hearts has to keep up with the times and in order to get better and survive, money must be found from sources that have not been used before. Soon enough, they will become part of the landscape there and “Meet me near the Sunoco sign by turn one” will become part of our vernacular.