Indy 500 to host 135,000 in largest sports event in pandemic

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FILE - In this May 26, 2019, file photo, Simon Pagenaud, of France, leads the field through the first turn on the start of the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 will be the largest sporting event since the start of the pandemic with 135,000 spectators permitted to attend The Greatest Spectacle in Racing next month. Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Wednesday, April 21, 2021, it worked with the Marion County Public Health Department to determine 40% of venue capacity can attend the May 30 race. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

The Indianapolis 500 is set to be the largest sporting event in the world since the start of the pandemic with 135,000 spectators permitted to attend “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” next month.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Wednesday it worked with the Marion County Public Health Department to determine that 40% of venue capacity can attend the May 30 race on Memorial Day weekend. The speedway is the largest sporting facility in the world with more than 250,000 grandstand seats and the ability to host close to 400,000 on race day throughout the entire property.

The attendance figure was determined after Indianapolis hosted the NCAA men's basketball tournament through March and into April with limited attendance. The NCAA allowed 8,000 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium for the April 5 men's championship game.

The Alabama spring football game last weekend hosted 47,218 fans, nearly 10,000 more than a recent Texas Rangers baseball game; an Australian Rules cricket match in Melbourne drew 51,723 in March.

Roger Penske, in his second year as owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had hoped for full attendance, but IndyCar and speedway officials are taking pride in the upcoming milestone.

“This event and this place means so much to everybody we see every day and we hear from every day, whether they are Hoosiers or race fans from around the world,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp., told The Associated Press.

“We feel a real responsibility to protect that legacy and to grow it and to have the race," Miles said. "We're ready to take the next step in bringing back the economy and a lot of that in this city and state is driven by sports events which has been shut down for so many months. March Madness was incredibly successful, this is the next step and it just so happens this will probably be the biggest sporting event of the year.”

The speedway will be open to spectators every day cars are on the track beginning with the May 15 road course event. The viewing mounds in the infield will be closed, and general admission infield tickets will not be made available.