Indy 500 set to break pandemic attendance record

Plans have been announced to welcome around 135,000 fans to next month’s Indy 500, which would mark a record attendance for a sporting event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open at up to 40% capacity for the event, which is scheduled to take place on May 30. The racetrack is the largest sporting facility in the world, with more than 250,000 seats and the ability to host almost 400,000 on event days throughout the site.

The plan to open the venue at 40% capacity has been developed in close consultation with state and local health officials and has been approved by the Marion County Public Health Department.

Fans attending the event will be required to wear face masks, while temperature checks will be administered upon entry. Spacing between customer groups will be enforced in the grandstands and throughout the venue, while spectator viewing mounds will be closed to the public and frequent cleaning and sanitation processes will be in place.

J. Douglas Boles, president of the IMS, said: “Our fans mean everything to us, and we can’t wait to welcome them ‘Back Home Again’ for this year’s Indy 500.

“The city and state have worked with us to identify the appropriate health and safety precautions so that we can successfully host a limited but very enthusiastic crowd. The health and safety of everyone coming to IMS, along with Central Indiana and the Hoosier State, have been paramount throughout this process.”

Mark Miles, president and chief executive of Penske Entertainment, which owns the venue, added: “The number one thing fans can do to ensure a great race day is get vaccinated as quickly as possible. We continue to offer vaccinations at IMS and will be extending our mass vaccination clinic throughout the month of May. This is all part of the effort to continue getting Indiana back on track.”

Vaccination days are planned at IMS from April 24-30, with vaccinations to also be made available on select days from May 1-27. IMS and IndyCar will unveil a media campaign to encourage race day attendees to get vaccinated immediately.

The announcement comes after Indianapolis recently staged the NCAA’s ‘March Madness’ college basketball tournament. The championship game was held on April 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, in front of 8,000 fans.

A crowd of 135,000 would surpass the current record crowd attendance since the onset of the pandemic, which was set last month when more than 66,000 fans reportedly watched the Twenty20 cricket match between India and England at Narendra Modi Stadium.

In other news, Melbourne Cricket Ground has been handed a further boost after it was cleared to welcome up to 85,000 fans for this weekend’s AFL games. The 100,000-seat stadium has been capped at 75,000 capacity for the past month due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, but this has now been increased by the state government in Victoria.

Other venues in the state, including John Cain Arena and AAMI Park, can also open at 85% capacity, but the 75% cap will remain in place for Marvel Stadium and GMHBA Stadium.

The biggest AFL crowd at the MCG so far this season was 51,723, despite the capacity limit increasing to 75%. The state government and health authorities are not currently willing to reopen venues at full capacity.

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