By Olivia Covington
A bill that would create a motorsports investment district to generate revenue for upgrades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway faced questions Wednesday in the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee.
The track hosts the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 every year.
Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, the bill's author, told the committee that Senate Bill 91 would lead to an increase in state revenue by improving the speedway - even though some state dollars would be initially siphoned off to help the track.
"This is of great importance, not only to Speedway, but to the state of Indiana," Young said.
The bill would create a partnership between the state and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and create as much as $5 million in annual tax revenue for the track's project. The speedway would sell $100 million in bonds to be paid off over 20 years using the annual revenue.
The owners of the speedway, the Hulman-George family, have been operating and improving the track without state help or tax breaks since they acquired in 1945.
Young told the committee that the track is not in financial trouble but improvements are necessary to keep up with national competition.
Young said newer tracks in other locations have better amenities than what are found at the Indianapolis track, which hurts the speedway competitively.
Young estimated that $100 million in track improvements are necessary. The partnership is meant to help the speedway - but not leave the state funding the entire project. The track would be required to fund at least part of it - about $4 million annually.
The state's share would come from the investment district that would include the speedway, its golf course and other attached amenities. Income and sales taxes paid in the district would stay there - rather than going to the state's general fund - and the money used for the speedway improvements.
Young said the speedway would be responsible for its share, regardless of how business at the track is going.
"(The speedway) has to pay the difference, not the tax payers," Young said.
The speedway is expected to use the for better seating and lighting in the track, as well as making it handicap accessible, as the federal government recently mandated.
The bill also creates a motor sports board that will own any new assets the track creates until the bonds are paid off. The board would consist of two members appointed by Gov. Mike Pence, one member appointed by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, one member appointed by Senate President Pro-Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and two members of the state budget board.
The board "is the perfect brake stop in assuring the citizens of Indiana that we own the assets and that our citizens are protected," Young said.
A group of financial analysts gave a presentation about the financial impact of the improvements on behalf of the IMS. The analysts said that roughly 6,200 jobs and $510 million are generated annually by the motorsports industry.
Members of the Ways and Means Committee expressed concerns about the town of Speedway's ability to host additional fans the improvements might bring in, as well as concerns about the way in which the money for the improvements will be generated.
Young said the Speedway has been working to improve the appearance of its city, including dealing with the graffiti that is prominent around the "gateway" to the track. Additionally, Young said that the residents of Speedway are used to the large crowds that are in the streets at night before the Indianapolis 500 and so better lighting that would allow for night races would not be a disturbance.
The Senate passed the bill 37-12 last month. Ways and Means members will vote on amendments to the bill at a later date.
Olivia Covington is a reporter for TheStatehousefile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.
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