May 17, 2024 - News

Doug Boles on blackouts, new fans and why May is better in Indianapolis

Doug Boles IMS President

The IMS president says this year's race is going to be a big one. Photo: Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you see Doug Boles smiling ear to ear while out and about this month, the IMS president says it's because the 2024 Indianapolis 500 already feels like an all-timer.

Why it matters: It's selling like one, too — reserve ticket sales are up between 15,000 and 16,000 seats when compared to this time last year.

  • "I think the fans have really embraced the Indy 500 over the last few years, and that continues to be a positive for our ticket sales," Boles said. "The excitement level I think is high as it's been since maybe the 2016 100th running of the race."

Yes, but: Don't get your hopes up for watching "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" live on local broadcast TV.

Driving the news: With less than 10 days before the big day, Boles caught up with Axios to provide the latest on ticket sales and broadcasting for the 108th running.

  • Boles said the rule of thumb for lifting the longstanding local broadcast blackout has always been that a total sellout is required — except for pandemic-level exceptions.
  • "That's what led to it in 2016. And then obviously in 2020 when we couldn't have people here and in 2021 when everybody that wanted to be here couldn't be here," Boles said. "But right now, I don't think our position really has varied … we need to sell the place out before we can really start thinking about that."

Flashback: Leading up to 2016's 350,000-fan sellout, all reserve seats were sold by May 6.

  • Last year's race drew more than 330,000 fans.
  • "We are on track, I hope, to have a reserve seat sellout which will likely happen sometime towards the end of next week," Boles said. "So the difference between 2024 and 2016 is we could sell out our reserved seats, but we certainly won't sell out of our GA tickets."

The big picture: Boles is always thinking of how to move the event forward.

The intrigue: The biggest challenge, Boles said, is figuring out how to balance honoring the traditions that make the Indy 500 special while also evolving in a way that attracts new fans.

  • The Snake Pit growing into what's now an annual EDM festival is one example, and events like IMS hosting thousands of IPS students to see the cars up close recently is one Boles is especially proud of.
  • "I think (new fans) appreciate the history and tradition, but the history and tradition isn't the hook to get them to come," Boles said. "Our community has changed. It's not the same community as it was 115 years ago when the Speedway was built or 107 runnings ago."

What he's saying: "I enjoy getting to represent Speedway 365 days a year, but this is definitely the month because I know the big stage is here," Boles said. "So yeah, the smiles on my face are hard to get off most of the time."

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