-- INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time in at least 20 years, all reserved seats for the Indianapolis 500 have sold out.
The anchor race of the Verizon IndyCar Series has been experiencing a slow but steady growth in attendance since 2011, said Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles. But capitalizing on the publicity of this being the 100th running of the historic event, this is the first time since the early 1990s that all of the nearly 250,000 grandstand seats were sold in advance.
"Every Indianapolis 500 is special, but the buzz surrounding the 100th running has been building for nearly a year," Boles said from the steps of the Indiana Statehouse, where he was joined by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
"The ability to talk about the 100th, and to talk about the yearlong project of improvements we're making to the venue, has really gotten a lot of support from the community," he added. "We've gotten more community support than I can recall in my 25 years in the sport."
Boles also confirmed that general admission tickets are selling at a much faster rate than in recent years. He said the increase over 2015 GA sales is "in excess of the capacity of Lucas Oil Stadium," the 70,000-seat venue that is the home of the Indianapolis Colts.
He estimated that race-day attendance could approach 350,000.
IMS does not release attendance figures, but it is believed that the 2.5-mile oval features around 230,000 permanent seats. Eighteen temporary suites outside Turn 2 have been added for this year's race.
IMS and city officials said more than 33,000 hotel rooms have been reserved for race week, at a premium estimated to be 20 percent above standard rates. Indianapolis hotels sold out eight weeks earlier than in 2015, and hotels in a 60-mile radius of the city are filling up quickly.
"When people come to this city -- and they are in droves for this great race -- they spend money that stays right here in Indianapolis," Hogsett said. "I'm not just talking about tax revenue. I'm talking about money that is spent in our local businesses.
"That's a good thing, and for the people who are visiting us, perhaps for the first time, I would suggest to you that they will be back after seeing this great facility and this great spectacle. They will be back to see what this city has to offer."
The IndyCar Series as a whole has bucked the trend for major forms of motorsports by posting small increases in attendance and television ratings over the past five years in an era when those metrics are in decline in NASCAR and Formula One.
The challenge for IMS and the IndyCar Series is to capitalize on the significant bump in attention they are getting from the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
"On May 30, I'm going to be reminding everybody that the 101st is just as important," Boles said. "We need to look forward with the same kind of energy that went into the 100th and the 99 that came before that.
"This is a springboard to what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is going to be about and to continue to dream about those years to come. We want to make sure fans have a reason to come back for the 101st."
ABC will televise the Indianapolis 500 for the 52nd consecutive year. The live broadcast is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on May 29.