July 24, 2020 at 07:00 pm
Mandatory masks and temperature screenings will be among the COVID-19 safety measures at next month’s Indianapolis 500, expected to draw the largest US sports crowd since the pandemic began.
Social distancing requirements cutting capacity to 87,500 spectators were also among measures announced Wednesday, a day after officials cut attendance limits from 50% capacity to 25% capacity for the August 23 race.
The crowd for the 104th Indy 500 would be the smallest at the annual oval classic in the famed 2 1/2-mile (4km) Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 83,000 attended the sixth Indy 500 in 1916.
With COVID-19 outbreaks still rising in much of the United States, the gathering would still be the largest event since most major American sports shut down in March.
“We think it’s important to welcome race fans to the 500 and to demonstrate that America, Indiana and Indianapolis do not need to shut down,” said Mark Miles, president and chief executive officer of Penske Entertainment Corporation, owners of the Speedway.
“We can and will operate with every precaution we can think of as we welcome fans to the race. We will continue to work with our local and state health officials to ensure we’re doing whatever is necessary to protect our fans.”
France’s Simon Pagenaud will try and become the first racer to win back-to-back Indy 500s since Brazil’s Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002 at the signature IndyCar event, which was postponed from May due to the pandemic.
An 88-page safety plan unveiled Wednesday was developed over the past four months alongside national health experts and the Marion County Department of Public Health.
“The IMS plan... reflects the current best practices and mitigating steps outdoor venues should have in place to host public events,” county public health department director Virginia Caine said.
Seating will be scattered across the huge grandstands to meet social separation requirements with masks required indoors and outside. Anyone whose temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees F will be prohibited from entering the Speedway.
Drinking fountains and misting stations will be removed and food available at concession stands will be mostly pre-packaged items. Extra events such as concerts and a downtown parade have been canceled.