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Indianapolis Motor Speedway renovating to meet ADA standards

Photo: /AP

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, over a century old, will update their facilities in a two-and-a-half year project.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced a settlement with the Justice Department on Thursday that calls for updating the sprawling, century-old facility to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Among the changes will be the addition of wheelchair seating in the grandstands, features making bathrooms wheelchair accessible and adjustments to parking. The infield mounds will be wheelchair accessible, and the slopes of ramps throughout the facility will be altered for safety reasons.

Speedway officials said Thursday the timetable for the changes is two and a half years.

The speedway, like the IndyCar Series owned by the Hulman-George family, was built in 1909. The original ADA standards were adopted in 1991 and updated in 2010.

Officials said the Speedway is a historic landmark, complicating some of changes that can be made. At 253 acres and with more than 250,000 seats, it is also one of the largest sports facilities in the world.

"It brings with it, because of its age, unique sets of challenges that more modern sports facilities simply do not face," U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said.

In 1999, Dan Ward attended a practice session at IMS and said he was denied access to the pits because he was in a wheelchair, even though he had a pit pass. He took his concerns to the U.S. Attorney's office, and an investigation found 360 different ADA violations. Besides the improvements, the speedway also agreed to pay Ward and Justice Department $35,000 each.

Kevin Forbes, director of engineering for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said the way the changes came about weren't ideal, but he sees the situation as an opportunity.

"This has been a very humbling experience," he said. "In spite of our efforts, our desires, our wants to do everything right to make our facility accessible, to make it enjoyable, to make it a great experience for our customers and all of our patrons, sometimes we fall short of our expectations, of everybody's expectations."

The speedway will submit a report to the U.S. Attorney every 90 days for two years detailing compliance with the agreement, and every six months after that. The speedway also agreed that all future changes will meet ADA standards.

"Today's announcement serves as a reminder that the march toward equality continues, and this office remains dedicated to defending the civil rights of all Indiana residents," Hogsett said.

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