New push may bring Speedway out of track’s shadowSRC Member
May 29, 2012
Late Thursday afternoon, I found myself sitting next to a woman from Boise, Idaho, in a basement in Speedway.
That would be Speedway the town, not Speedway the track.
Her name is Myrna Harris, and she was raving about the town’s tree-lined streets, old houses and the food she was eating that had been prepared by a handful of Speedway restaurants.
Outside, I could hear the faint whirring of an IndyCar, the two-seater kind that’s designed to give tourists a thrill. Hours earlier, it had captivated her attention on every pass. But no longer. By then, she had been thrilled by the community that surrounds the track.
“Who knew there was a little town here?” Harris, a community resource officer for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, said excitedly between mouthfuls of food. “You hear about the 500, but you never hear about Speedway.”
Indeed, most people who come to Indianapolis for the 500, whether they live in Indiana or Idaho or India, never venture a bit farther into the meticulously maintained town of Speedway.
(Count me among them. Before Thursday, the only time I had been to Speedway beyond the track was to dodge a post-Carb Day traffic jam.)
But thanks to a new push from town officials, that anonymity might soon change. The plan is to host a series of “pride tours” for curious souls year-round.
The first one, which I joined with Harris and others on Thursday, had roots in the Neighborhoods USA, or NUSA, conference.
About 650 community development types from all over the country were in Indianapolis last week to talk about everything from abandoned housing to public safety to bike lanes. Many of those attending the conference took tours of local neighborhoods, and Speedway was among them.
“It’s an idea that the town hadn’t considered before,” said Julia Pratt, co-chair of the tour. “There are many, many people who do not know the real Speedway story and how we got here.”
So, Pratt and others shared the story of the town and the stories of their own lives.
The amateur Speedway historians found a receptive audience in about 20 NUSA attendees.
At first, though, for the out-of-towners it was all about the race, the Pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or the two-seater IndyCar speeding down Main Street.
“It’s Indianapolis,” said Karla Chavez, an architect from Denver. “The 500 is what the world knows Indy for.”
But as we turned down a particularly attractive stretch of West 15th Street between Main Street and Winton Avenue, everything changed.
The group gasped at the distinctive design of a house, known as “The Castle,” which once belonged to longtime Indianapolis Motor Speedway medical director Thomas Hanna. They smiled at the canopy of trees.
They nodded approvingly as the tour guides explained the permeable pavement installed on residential streets to address run-off after storms.
Tammy Micensky, who lives in Coral Springs, Fla., said it’s especially encouraging to find a quiet haven in the shadow of a massive race track. Thinking about the burgeoning metropolis around the Daytona International Speedway, where the Daytona 500 takes place each winter, she shook her head.
“Oh, it’s nothing like this,” she said. “This is really nice.”
The impression of Speedway that Harris shared with me over dinner set the pace for the afternoon. “It’s so unique,” she said, “really a neat little town.”
Speedway has a lot to be proud of — and a lot to show off.