IMS plan to put its concessions and merchandise vending operations up for bid (update)

UPDATE Centerplate apparently has a program for volunteer organizations to furnish volunteers to staff concessions in exchange for a share of the sales at Lucas Oil Stadium. I found an old article from 2010 discussing contracts it had with nonprofit groups and area schools. The article indicated that about 70% of the concession stands at LOS is operated by volunteers. The participating groups and schools seemed to be happy with the arrangement. Presumably, Centerplate would have a similar arrangement at the Speedway if it won the contract. I don't know how it would compare to the current arrangement with the Speedway. It's hard to see how you squeeze out larger profits with an outside contractor if you're not going to raise prices to levels more comparable with food and concession costs at Lucas Oil Stadium or Banker's Life Fieldhouse.

10/01/13 The IBJ's Anthony Schoettle has a story discussing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's plan to put its concessions and merchandise vending operations up for bid for the first time in the Speedway's 104-year history. According to the story, Speedway officials are asking bidders "to commit to making unspecified infrastructure upgrades to help increase the customer experience and increase sales." Schoettle says the move is seen as a way "to cut costs and increase revenue." Centerplate and Levy Restaurants are considered leading bidder for food and beverages, while MainGate is viewed as having an inside track on the merchandising contract. Centerplate currently has the contract for Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center, while the Simon-owned Pacers currently has a contract with Levy to operate the concessions at Banker's Life Fieldhouse.

Completely missing from Schoettle's story is what impact the outsourcing will have on nonprofit organizations in Central Indiana, which have long been awarded commissions on concession sales at the IMS events in exchange for providing thousands of volunteers to staff the concession and merchandise stands and to serve as ushers and parking attendants. The Ice Skating Club of Indianapolis, for example, provided volunteers to staff one of the concession stands at this year's Indy 500, Brickyard 400 and MotoGP races for the opportunity to receive 13% from the concession stand's sales.

Schoettle's story notes that Speedway fans have become accustomed to much lower food and beverage costs at the track than other venues, particularly Lucas Oil Stadium and Banker's Life Fieldhouse, where prices are atrocious. Speedway President Doug Boles says that he is confident that price controls in the vendor's contract will keep prices from increasing. Fans will still be allowed to bring their own food and drink to the track. The outsourcing, however, will mean the loss of about 15 full-time jobs at the Speedway, in addition to the loss of some part-time, seasonal staff.

Thanks to legislation approved by the General Assembly this year and signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana taxpayers will fork over $100 million to the Hulman-George family to make improvements to their privately-owned race track because in Indiana it is apparently the duty of every taxpayer to provide public subsidies to the state's wealthiest families who operate professional sporting events. They're not concerned about whether you can afford to buy health insurance to take care of yourself and your family or whether your kids learn anything at our public schools, but it is absolutely vital that there be permanent public subsidies available to the Irsay, Simon and Hulman-George families to operate their for-profit sporting businesses because they are so critical to the future well-being of the state.

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