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Venturing Beyond The Brickyard In Speedway

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Updated May 23, 2024, 12:48pm EDT

It’s not every hamlet that’s named after the event that put it on the map. But not every hamlet is Speedway, Ind., home of the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and setting for the 108th running of the iconic Indianapolis 500 this Sunday.

At 2.5 miles square, Speedway could be said to be a mini municipality. But its reach is great, as is its impact on residents, many of whom plant roots for generations within its borders.

Speedway is landlocked, leaving out of the question the annexation of additional acreage to expand. But like the much larger metro of which it is part, and the state in which it’s located, the town of 13,952 is on track for growth, its eyes on the future.

Speedway residents hoist checkered flags and welcome visitors into their homes and parking spaces on race days. Like many of the 350,000 visitors who arrive there yearly, spending more than $1 billion in the town, Speedway denizens celebrate race days in race-themed restaurants and embrace the town’s racing roots and traditions.

The town continues to serve as home base for auto manufacturing powerhouses Dallara and Allison Transmission, a nod to Speedway’s founding as a residential community for manufacturing employees of Ford Motor Company and Allison.

Focal point

Among new attractions in town is Founders Square, a 25-acre, mixed-use development with a supermarket, restaurants, a soon-to-be-constructed school and senior housing. Situated on the western border of Speedway, down the street from the IMS, it is a focal point for visitors entering the town from Interstates 74 and 465.

In 1915, not long after the first Indianapolis 500 was run, the Rosner Building first opened its doors on Speedway’s Main Street. Today, renamed the Wilcox Building, it is the longest-standing commercial structure on that thoroughfare. Once home to a grocery and general store, it’s been redeveloped as an office building showcasing its original wood floors and exposed brick, and is one element in a plan to revitalize Main Street.

Within the past six years, Speedway converted a one-time PNC Bank building into the town hall. The move was made to consolidate government offices in the heart of town, giving residents a convenient way of visiting different town offices in one trip.

Also new is 1300 Block, a Main Street mixed-use development featuring condominiums, shopping and dining. It’s situated a short walk from the new Plaza on Main pocket park, which is poised to serve as the setting for concerts and festivals on the green. The 1300 Block development is being promoted as “steps from history,” due to the fact it is close enough to IMS for visitors to hear the hum of revving engines as they set foot outside.

The town of Speedway is also looking for creative ways to increase population, in spite of its tightly controlled borders. One approach is to add density, which is being achieved in the newly developed Wilshaw Apartments, a three-story, 90-unit boutique apartment building on Main Street.

Visitor influx

Speedway will accommodate the visitor influx this race day in several ways. Recently completed, the Speedway gateway sign is situated within Founders Square, and orients travelers as they arrive in town. A Hampton Inn & Suites hotel, opened in May 2023 as part of the development of Founders Square, offers 129 rooms, as well as conference space and dining. The new hostelry augments the town’s other major hotel, Courtyard Indianapolis West-Speedway. And fittingly for a town built on speed, over the last few decades traffic infrastructure has been fine tuned to enable crowd clearance within a couple of hours of race end.

Speedway’s ambition is a fitting complement to that of metro Indianapolis, which bested all its Midwestern counterparts in real GDP from 2019 to 2022. It also nicely parallels the forward momentum of the Hoosier State as a whole, which placed among the top 14 states for most new business applications from December 2022 to December 2023.

Racing legend Roger Penske once remarked of the IMS, “The Speedway seems to have a life and a story all its own that it wants to tell.”

The same might be said of the town it calls home.

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