Fort Worth officials get race pointers from Indy

March 15, 2010, 8:47 PM

By: Eddie Gossage

Fort Worth officials recently visited the home of the largest annual sporting event in the world to study ways to host fans at the largest annual sporting event in Texas.

Officials representing the city of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Convention and Visitor's Bureau and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce just returned from Indianapolis to learn how that city utilizes the Indy 500 as a tourism and economic development tool. The officials are hoping to put some of what they learned to use during the week of the April 18 Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Welcoming the Fort Worth leaders was Greg Ballard, mayor of Indianapolis. Ballard, who became emotional as he explained what the Indianapolis 500 means to the city, attended the IRL IndyCar season opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Indy representatives included officials with the 500 Festival, the city of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Indianapolis Convention and Visitor's Bureau and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Among one of the revelations were that the city of Indianapolis employs a person full-time in its economic development office that focuses solely on motorsports.

The 500 Festival hosts the kickoff event for the Memorial Day weekend race, a mini-marathon and 5k run on the first weekend in May that includes the famous 2.5-mile speedway as part of the runner's course. Additionally, the 500 Festival holds a nationally televised parade, a Memorial Day service honoring the armed forces and the annual Snakepit Ball. To successfully stage the events, approximately 7,000 volunteers are used from the community.

Ballard said he will cut short a mayoral visit to India in order to be on hand to wave the green flag to start the mini-marathon and 5k run that attracts 40,000 runners. Indianapolis, which has used sporting events as a key tourism and economic development tool, is home to the NCAA and will host this year's Final Four and the 2012 Super Bowl.

Fort Worth already plans to step up efforts to attract more racing fans to town, with "Welcome Race Fans" billboards on I-35W; banners on lamp posts in downtown Fort Worth; banners across downtown streets; and signage at baggage carousels, departure gate concourses and exits at DFW Airport similar to plans for the recent NBA All-Star Game and the 2011 Super Bowl.

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