Indy 500 at 100: The Fan Experience Gets an Upgrade at IMS
Improved venue sound is part of the two-year, $90 million initiative
Motor sports have lately been on a mission to improve the in-venue fan experience, and the upcoming Indianapolis 500 represents a major step in that process. In the wake of Daytona Rising — the $400 million renovation of NASCAR’s flagship venue, which was completed in time for the Daytona 500 race in February — the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will mark the culmination of Project 100, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s own $90 million, two-year-long capital-improvement initiative.
Project 100 included renovation of all the track’s concession stands, replacement of the catch fence with a new mesh fence, and replacement of the bleachers and folding chairs in the upper deck of the front straightaway with new stadium-style seats. The upper-deck “penthouse” area got additional rows and a new roof, and space was provided for ADA-compliant elevators, giving people with disabilities or in wheelchairs access to this viewpoint for the first time.
Part of Project 100 also saw the track’s audio improved. The stadium seating in the newly renovated upper deck is now covered by 255 Klipsch 6- and 8-in. two-way speakers, integrated into the PA system updated last year. The project was overseen by RaceTrack Engineering, an independent contractor that also manages the racetrack’s Race Control operation, which monitors the track and the race for infractions and track conditions during races.
“The new seating in the penthouse and the new speakers up there are part of the effort to upgrade the fan experience,” says Dave Dusick, owner of RaceTrack Engineering, which also provides similar A/V services for other motorsports tracks in the U.S.
The new Klipsch speakers, which are manufactured in Indiana, are installed within 15 ft. of the renovated stadium-style seats, providing a high degree of full-range coverage without having to maintain high volume. This, says Dusick, contributes to a hi-fi audio experience.
Fifty of the same types of speakers have also been installed in the revamped Hulman Club section at turn 4 as part of Project 100. The existing dozen or so suites there have been replaced by a large, open premium viewing area featuring three dozen Panasonic flat-screen video displays, making the suite-level experience available to individual ticket buyers.
According to Dusick, the track still has a number of decades-old audio components embedded in its infrastructure — for instance, 70-volt systems in the remaining suites and 240-volt systems in the infield — and, this year, RaceTrack Engineering has been integrating those into the main PA control system, which was installed in 2002 using a QSC QSControl management system, speakers, and amplifier components.
Race Control has also been upgraded, with a dozen new Axis HD PTZ cameras installed by IndyCar and distributed around the track. These are intended to supplement the 18 cameras that IMS already operates around the track and the 36 camera feeds Race Control takes in from the broadcast compound during races.
Race Control’s centerpiece is a video wall segmented vertically into five columns, the displays taking feeds from the broadcast cameras via fiber cabling. Replays on the displays are used by IMS officials to rule on possible infractions during the race and to investigate crashes. Input from the broadcast cameras is fed to six Evertz Microsystems DreamCatcher replay decks. Race Control also takes in real-time communications from a number of spotters positioned along the track to call in warnings about problems, such as debris on the track, too nuanced even for an HD camera to pick up.
“The big changes this year at Indy are in the fan-experience areas,” says Dusick, adding, “The audio just gets better every year.”