May 25, 2016 / 3:13 PM / 3 years ago

First Indy 500 sellout brings security questions

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will mark the first sellout in event’s long history, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) said on Wednesday, putting added demands on already beefed-up security.

May 24, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon (9) leads the field to the green flag at the start of the 2015 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

All suites, reserved seating and infield general admission tickets have been sold, and estimates are that close to 400,000 motor racing fans will pack the famed Brickyard for Sunday’s centennial showcase.

The Speedway does not provide attendance numbers, but it claims to be the world’s largest one-day sporting event. It should draw attendance roughly equal to the combined populations of South Bend (101,000) and Fort Wayne (253,000), said Mark Miles, chief executive of Hulman Company, which owns and operates the race track.

Miles, the former head of the Association of Tennis Professionals, said Homeland Security and a number of federal agencies have been involved in the planning of the event but did not suggest a cap on ticket sales.

Asked whether security would be enhanced, given recent world events, Miles said, “We are almost at a point where it is difficult to find anybody else who can don a yellow shirt or work for private security. They are already being imported from out of state.

“There really are some limits to what can be done,” Miles said. “For us, it was an ongoing analysis, what is the appropriate number of people to sell general admission tickets to and make the decision to cut it off, and we think we’ve gotten to that place.”

The 500 creates unique security challenges, with hundreds of thousands of fans allowed to bring coolers packed with food and drink into the race track. Spectators can expect a greater police presence and long lineups, although they will not face airport-type security such as metal detectors and pat-downs.

“There will be wanding and we do plan to check every single cooler and that gets tough,” Miles told Reuters. “Extra arrangements have already been made, more lanes to get people through gates.

“It is fair to say a lot of people anticipated a sellout of the reserve seats, but I don’t think a lot people anticipated getting to a place where we would have to say we really should not really sell anymore general infield admission tickets.”

Staged on the American Memorial Day holiday weekend, the 500 was first held in 1911. No races were held for a total of five years during World Wars One and Two, so Sunday’s event will mark the 100th running of what is billed as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

Editing by Larry King

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