INDIANAPOLIS — This year's Indy 500 will look a little different.
That's because the usual pre-race balloon release won't be happening, according to officials with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The primary objective of our pre-race show is to bring people together as we honor our military heroes, celebrate sporting excellence, and build the excitement and anticipation level as we prepare for the command to start engines. While we understand the historical connection of the balloon release to many of our fans, we have paused it for now and will continue to evaluate the best opportunities to celebrate our event’s unique legacy and traditions moving forward," said IMS spokesperson Alex Damron.
The decision was influenced by concerns regarding the release's environmental impact, Damron said.
Environmental groups like the Indiana Audubon Society are pleased with this decision.
"We've partnered with 30 other organizations in advocating for this for years and so the fact they're ending this indefinitely and citing environmental concerns is great news," Brad Bumgardner, Executive Director of the Indiana Audubon Society, said.
Bumgardner hopes this will influence other large organizations to think about their environmental impact.
"It's a great outlook looking at IMS and the Penske Entertainment Group in their total environmental stewardship," Bumgardner said. "Just last year, they did get the distinction with the Responsible Sports Certification. That highlights effort their making economically and environmentally to make sure their event is sound and safe not just for Hoosiers but the wildlife, too."
Damron said a second flyover to the pre-race show will happen in place of the release.
"We are confident that this year’s pre-race activities will be as exciting and celebratory as any we have had at IMS," Damron said.
In addition, Damron said the staff and space required for the balloon tent will instead be used for team and series partner fan activations.
This will make the infield "more robust" for visitors, Damron said.
This is a developing story.