I just finished my interview with Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus, and after my 10 minutes with him one thing was abundantly clear: racing is the most financially fan friendly sport in the world. Of course we are in tough financial times, but when you venture out to 16th and Georgetown you aren’t ever reminded of the tough times that this country faces. From the ticket prices to the congenial nature of a sport that actually cares about your experience, you are allowed to enjoy yourself without going broke.
The very nature of sports and entertainment is simple: they distract us from our lives for a few brief moments so that we may reset our outlooks on life. However in tough financial times, many leagues pass on their financial problems to you the fan. It cost $5 to watch the cars practice, and only $20 on race day. Although that is chump change, Belskus points to recent economic impact study that suggests that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is responsible for $750 million per year in our local economy. Tell me who loses. No one. Great fan experience, great economic impact, and the largest drivers’ purse in racing.
So how does the IMS do it? “We are a private company and we don’t disclose our financials” says Belskus. In other words, we don’t pass on our financial problems to the fans. We figure them out, make adjustments, and then enhance the fan experience. I can’t imagine the NBA, NFL, or MLB doing that. “But just like most Americans we too have had to make some tough financial decisions, but the good news is that the changes are working.” Belskus speaks of the qualifying format and schedule changes for the entire month of May.
So there it is, the greatest spectacle in racing hasn’t passed on their challenges to the fans. They have made positive financial changes that have actually enhanced the fan experience. I think many of you have already found that making tough financial decisions isn’t a negative experience. It’s all about gathering information, measuring the impact of possible changes, and then making critical decisions. Too many times we view tough financial decisions as a negative event. But critical thinking and innovation can make for a better life. If the largest race in the world can do it, you sure as heck can too.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.