The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is the largest and highest capacity sporting facility in the world. On the day of the Indianapolis 500, hundreds of thousands of fans flock to the racetrack to witness the largest single-day sporting event on the planet. While spectators train their eyes on the oval, IMS staff train their ears on the radio communications that are critical to ensuring a safe and successful event.
IMS employees use handheld radios to coordinate every aspect of their work, including stage setup, merchandise sales, fire and rescue, security, safety patrols and housekeeping. But for more than a decade, the radio system failed to deliver on race day. As a result of the interference, some parts of the facility became unreachable.
Year after year, the problem went unsolved.
“Customers get used to what they’ve always had — the service levels and the challenges,” said Amanda Gardner, region project development manager for United Rentals’ Tool Solutions Group. The radio vendor for IMS told them the problem simply couldn’t be solved.
Addressing an old problem with new thinking
When United Rentals took a look at the issue, project logistics manager Jim Kasarda had a breakthrough idea. IMS’s radio equipment was housed in a central area called the pagoda. With all the antennae nearby, the interference was bound to be significant. He suggested moving IMS’s equipment to the relatively remote Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
IMS agreed to give the new arrangement a try.
The new system had to be thoroughly tested before race day, yet the conditions of race day were almost impossible to replicate. United Rentals used service monitors to understand the different frequencies operating in different parts of the venue. Near the pagoda, there were 10 possible sources of interference. At the museum, there were none.
The next step was to test the new system during a smaller event — IMS tested the system during smaller events prior to the month of May. After gaining proof of concept at that race, IMS and United Rentals were ready to roll out the system at the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2022.
Planning and support yielded flawless performance
For the month of May, United Rentals brought in a MOTOTRBO Capacity Plus trunked system, 250 resale radios and 786 rental radios. IMS had been operating with analog equipment, but the equipment United Rentals provided was a fully digital trunking system which supports features such as the creation of multiple talk groups on a single frequency.
Kasarda and Anthony Mulheron, another project logistics manager with United Rentals, set up the system and monitored it onsite for two weeks. These United Rentals technical project logistics managers arrived at the track for these month of May events, prepared to mitigate any challenges and address any last-minute needs.
On race day, the communications system performed flawlessly. Austin Pontius, IMS’s logistics manager, was able to communicate via radio with operations staff members he couldn’t reach in previous years because they were out of range. Clear communication at the push of a button improved his ability to keep track of people and gear.
“We had a very successful first weekend with the new radio system, and the positive feedback has been overwhelming,” said Pontius. “Jim and Anthony have been great to work with since Day 1, and I have nothing but positive feedback to share.”