This month, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a ribbon-cutting ceremony along the backstretch of the famous brickyard oval.
It wasn’t for a statue honoring a past racing legend, but a ceremony with an eye toward the future. The IMS was announcing the completion of a 9 MW solar farm, the largest solar array attached to a sporting facility in the world.
Solar arrays and sporting facilities aren’t necessarily a new thing. Take a look at the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA. A number of stadiums in each league generate energy through solar power. But what’s interesting is that not too long ago, Pocono Raceway, which is affiliated with NASCAR, held the title for the largest solar-powered sports facility. Four years later, the title is transferred to an INDYCAR affiliate.
But is INDYCAR as green as NASCAR? It would seem NASCAR has lapped INDYCAR in this area. NASCAR has a huge green initiative. Besides renewable generation, NASCAR is busy with recycling, emissions reduction, tree planting and many other aspects of sustainability.
Not being a close fan of either, it’s hard for me to say what the true motivation is behind the solar array at IMS. I do know there is a healthy rivalry between the two sports, and to some degree, their fans as well. Maybe INDYCAR recognizes that NASCAR is gaining some ticket sales and fans based on their green activities. Roughly three out of four fans are aware of NASCAR Green, their sustainability platform, and fans believe in the message that NASCAR cares about the environment. And that is a good fit for NASCAR fans, who are twice as likely as non-fans to indicate their household is very green. Beyond just NASCAR fans, our own recent Pulse study revealed that nearly a third of Americans would be more likely to attend a game or concert if they knew the venue operator recycled/composted all the trash.
For many, solar arrays (along with windmills and polar bears) are one of those quintessential external signs of care for the environment. It tells the world you’re concerned and doing something about it. But there isn’t much else INDYCAR is doing with regards to sustainability, at least not that is well publicized. They do mention things like responsible disposal of oil and recycling race tires, but there is no mention of a tangible link to the fan. These activities are pretty distant from the fan experience, unlike a concerted, branded recycling effort, which virtually every attendee will come in contact with. And while INDYCAR may get some good publicity for their solar array, if they are interested in putting more fans in seats, they need to start looking at something a little closer to the fan.