INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The rain that forced postponement of the Indianapolis 500 has complicated plans for handling a large crowd expected at Saturday’s running of the race.
Officials said continued wet weather forecast for Wednesday and Thursday could restrict parking near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, making it difficult for race fans to get to the Speedway or park inside the 2 1/2 -mile oval.
″The infield is a sea of mud and if we don’t get a break in the weather, we’ve got a big problem,″ said State Police Colonel Donald D. Cox.
″If fans can’t get to a parking place, they just back up for miles,″ said Cox.
Bill Burgan, police chief for the city of Speedway, said: ″I don’t think many of these parking lots can be resurrected by Saturday.
″We may have to look at the restrictions on on-street parking and maybe waive some of the restrictions.″
Traffic and parking problems could be complicated by curtailed mass transit service.
Metro, the Indianapolis bus system, might have to run at reduced levels Saturday, said director of marketing Beverly Guidara.
″We’re not sure yet. We’ll have to figure out what we can put out,″ she said. ″On Sundays and holidays, we have reduced levels. But on a Saturday, we run a regular schedule so I don’t know how many buses we can get″ to serve the track.
She said the bus service followed a race day schedule Monday, when rain washed out the race for the second consecutive day.
″It certainly cost us,″ she said. ″We had a full complement of buses, but we hauled only about 100 fans.″
Officials predicted the crowd Saturday will be down from the estimated 350,000 who showed up for the scheduled running of the race Sunday.
″We think the crowd will be smaller, but it will still be pretty significant,″ said Cox, the state police deputy superintendent for field operations.
″Even if you lose 20 percent, you still have a big crowd.″
Speedway officials and local businesses began to brace Tuesday for another crush of fans.
″We’ve been getting some calls for Friday and Saturday,″ said Bryan Gray, an employee at the Sheraton Marten House hotel. ″We expect a lot more calls today.″
Race fans will have to pay $100 for a room Friday or Saturday, $35 more than the regular rate at the hotel, Gray said.
Bruce Matson, an employee at the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge near the track, said: ″We love it. We plan on blowing a lot of people’s budgets.
Jug Eckert, owner of Jug’s Catering, said the extra race day ″is a plus, sure.″
″We take care of about 50 of those (corporate) suites, and those kind of people will go again,″ said Eckert. He said the number of infield parties under rented tents probably won’t be as great Saturday.
Eckert said his company always stocks enough food to cater meals on a second race day. ″We always have a Plan B in case it rains.″
David Cassidy, director of concessions at the track, said the crowds Sunday and Monday wiped out supplies at concession stands.
″Anytime you have a rain delay, it’s good for business,″ he said. ″At this point, we really have nothing, but we’re ordering and by Saturday, we’ll be back to where we were before.″
Staffing the 100 track-owned concession stands could be a problem, Cassidy said.
″We’re going through now to try to find how many people we have... They all work someplace else. They just moonlight here to supplement their income,″ he said.
The cleanup at the race course continued Tuesday.
″The weather’s better and with any luck, we’ll get it cleaned up by Saturday,″ said Martha Horton, an assistant to Charlie Thompson, superintendent of grounds.
The overall economic impact of having another race day is difficult to estimate, said John Myrland, executive vice president of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.
″I don’t see anything that would be particularly detrimental or particularly good about it,″ he said. ″I don’t think there’s much of a major impact.″
The extra day of network television and press coverage is a mixed blessing, Myrland said.
″Anytime you use the name Indianapolis or the Indy 500, it’s positive. But you’ve got to remember that people got to see pictures of rainy Indianapolis in May,″ he said.
Most of the television and movie stars and beauty queens who were in town for the race have departed and likely won’t be back Saturday, said an employee of the Indianapolis 500 Festival.
But police will again be out in big numbers, officials said.
The heaviest burden again will fall on the small city of Speedway, which has to use all of its 25 police officers and 12 reserves on 12-hour shifts for the weekend, Burgan said.
″It gets expensive, especially when you’re paying overtime,″ said Burgan, a 24-year veteran of the police force.
″It’s sure going to put a big dent in my budget. I may have to go back to the city council later and ask for more money,″ he said.