INDIANAPOLIS | Be sure to take a close look at the "old" Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Sunday's race, because it soon will get some pricey upgrades, courtesy of Hoosier taxpayers and race fans.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence joined race officials Friday for a ceremonial public signing of a law that will give a $100 million state loan to the private corporation that owns the speedway to help it pay for, well, no one knows what exactly.
Speedway officials have said they're considering using the money to improve the stands, concession areas and grounds at the track, maybe install lighting for night races, probably add more video boards, and they spoke once about spending $10 million for information boards. Pence officially signed the bill earlier this month.
But unlike traditional loans where the borrower repays the money, with interest, the speedway is not required to ever directly pay back its loan, unless the track is sold.
Instead, future increases in state sales and income tax revenue recorded within the "motorsports improvement district" of the track will be credited against the debt, along with a new ticket fee that's expected to raise $1 million a year.
Racegoers will likely see the charge starting in 2014 and will have to cough up an extra 6 percent on tickets worth $150 or more, 3 percent on tickets priced between $100 and 150 and 2 percent on tickets costing less than $100.
Despite the loan's having the whiff of a "bailout," which Pence repeatedly opposed as a member of Congress, he has embraced the speedway loan plan.
"I believe it represents a careful, careful calibration of the interests of economic development, supporting a vital industry of the state of Indiana and it does so in a way that puts taxpayers first," Pence said during the ceremonial bill signing. "Motorsports has a rich history and an even brighter future in the state of Indiana."
"Let's just put it bluntly: Indiana is today and it will remain the motorsports capital of the world," he said.
The new law also creates a $5 million revolving loan fund to support other motorsports businesses in the state.