Hotels sell out for race

HANCOCK COUNTY — A day before the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, hotels across Hancock County are almost entirely booked.

Despite commanding prices twice as high as normal weekend rates at some local hotels, rooms sold out months earlier than they have in previous years, several local hotel officials said.

Although guests will travel to Indianapolis to watch the race, local visitors still will generate a significant economic impact locally, said Dave Scott, director of the Hancock County Visitors Bureau.

The county always draws spillover crowds from Indianapolis for the 500 when guests are unable to secure rooms in the sold-out metropolitan area, but demand was even higher this year, Scott said.

During the course of the weekend, Scott said he expects businesses across the county to rake in significant sums through transactions at local restaurants and businesses.

As of Thursday, Travis McMichael, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Greenfield, said he had four rooms that remained available for Saturday night.

He chose to reserve a handful of rooms for last-minute arrangements; he expects to sell out.

The price? A cool $500 — more than double the hotel’s typical weekend rate, he said.

Demand for rooms during previous Memorial Day weekends have paled in comparison to this year, McMichael said.

The hotel’s 74 rooms were almost entirely booked by November, three months earlier than the previous year, he said.

In Indianapolis, the city’s 33,000 hotel rooms have been booked since March 15, said Chris Gahl, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Indy, which tracks tourism in Central Indiana.

That’s eight weeks earlier than 2015, Gahl said.

On average, hotels in the city’s downtown area are commanding prices 50 percent higher than Memorial Day in 2015, Gahl said. Prices at hotels outside of downtown are 25 percent higher on average, he said.

There are no vacancies remaining at the Super 8 in Greenfield, where rooms sold at approximately 20 percent higher than typical weekend rates, said Kellie Crenshaw-Sawyer, general manager.

Sawyer said she typically sees the same travelers year after year who come for the race and choose to stay in Greenfield. By January, almost all of the motel’s rooms were booked, she said.

Although she’s noticed hotels around the area are asking higher rates than normal, Sawyer opted to keep prices the same as years past to keep her regulars showing up, she said.

Elsewhere in the county, Country Inn and Suites and Budget Motel in Greenfield also were sold out.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.