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Speedway businesses dependent on IMS thankful for extra 3 months

Fans react as Indianapolis 500 rescheduled for Aug. 23, 2020

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — For some businesses in Speedway that depend on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, news of the Indianapolis 500 being postponed comes a reaction that it’s better late than never. Most even believe it’s better that it is postponed.

That’s because the month of May is bigger than Christmas along Main Street at places like The Main Attraction Antique Mall.

It’s not open to the public Thursday, but owner Bill Norton is using this forced shutdown to fix, paint and clean. The coronavirus is a problem here, but a possible bigger one was on the horizon if the track down the street stays empty all year.

“Deeply concern, not panicky,” said Norton.

That’s because May means twice as much income as any other month including December, which is true for most along Main Street.

“It’s a big deal for us,” said Norton.

“That’s not a lower estimate, not at all,” adds Joel Reitz, owner of O’Reilly’s Irish Pub and Restaurant.

“Our sales easily four times our sales any other time of the year, if not greater,” said Will Harris, assistant manager of Tacos and Tequila on Main.

The announcement on Thursday that the Indy 500 is still happening in 2020, even if it’s on a three-month delay, is very welcome news. Though for many like Reitz, it’s not a surprise.

“I was not worried that we were going to cancel,” he said. “I believe in Roger Penske and his purchase of the whole thing over here. He’s a great businessman. He will make it happen.”

But on a day where it’s carryout only at restaurants and the streets are mostly bare, the thought of wall-to-wall people and 90-minute wait times is tough to believe.

But for those waiting on that infusion, an extra three months seems like a very good thing.

“Gives us a little breathing room since we’re closed down and can’t get merchandise in here,” said Norton.

It’s not just business owners celebrating either. Employees themselves count on the week and the month to help out the rest of the year.

“A lot of us make a lot of our money that weekend,” said Harris. “You can handle those slow months in the winter knowing that time of year is coming around.”

Indianapolis officials are also breathing a big sigh of relief about this move too.

Chris Gahl, senior vice president at Visit Indy said the race is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s tourism industry every year. With the postponed race still falling in the summer travel season between Memorial Day and Labor Day, they believe there’s plenty of time for fans to adjust as well as the entire tourism and hospitality industry.

“We believe it’s still as marketable during the summer months as it would be during Memorial Day because there’s so many rabid fans, so many race visitors who come in from all over the world,” Gahl said.

One big event already happening during that window of August is the Indiana State Fair. 

Gahl said that’s a good thing. The more events a city has going on at once, the longer visitors will stay and the two will complement each other.

But this year, all those visitors on Main Street will be coming three months later.

Even with two months notice, it’s a huge change for fans who plan their calendar around the race every year. But business owners on Main Street don’t seem to worry there will be a drop-off.

“I think they’ll be here. I think they’ll come,” said Norton.

“It’s the Indy 500, it one of the biggest sporting events in the entire world. I don’t have a concern for that. People will make it happen. It’s that much fun,” Reitz said.

Reitz says anticipation is his favorite emotion, so if the Indy 500 is Christmas, businesses and fans now have 150 days to anticipate and get ready for Santa Claus to come to town.