Tag Archives: International Amphitheater

More info on indoor racing

We had been asked additional questions (one in particular) about indoor drag racing, so here’s an update of more information about the why’s and wherefore’s of indoor drag racing back in 1962 (I actually can remember back that far as I went to the Seattle Fair – I was a tike).

Winter indoor drag racing in Chicago was located in the International Amphitheatre adjacent the stockyards at 42nd and Halstead in Chicago.  It was built in 1934 mainly to handle large crowds for operas and political gatherings.  It cost $1.5 million and was built for Frederick Henry Prince, owner of Union Stockyard Transit Co.  At different times over the years it housed political conventions, anti- war demonstrations, headline singing groups, wrestling, pro basketball, car shows, an 1/8 mile midget auto race track and in 1962 the drag strip was developed.  The strip was 440 ft. long (1/3 of a standard quarter mile strip).  The lanes were 60 ft wide on each side and 600 feet of shut down area.

During the 1980s, newer convention centers began to be built including McCormick Place and attendance at events began to wane.  The building was huge, the noise was deafening and although it was originally built with air conditioning, it was 1934 vintage and was inadequate to handle the tire smoke and exhaust fumes from drag racing.  The indoor strip only existed off and on during the 1962-1963 winter seasons.  In 1983 it was sold to a real estate investor for $250,000.  Unable to generate enough income to maintain the site it was then sold to the City of Chicago.  In a deal between the City and Aramark Uniform Services Co, in August 1999 the structure was demolished and a new building built for Aramark.

The reason we have not seen another indoor drag strip since then, is that environmental laws and regulations are so much stricter today and the expense would probably be unbearable.  As unique and exciting as it was at the time, it is doubtful we will ever see another indoor drag strip.  And as we pointed out earlier, the sound was deafening – and that’s back before we really learned how to make cars fast; and much louder.

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Indoor Drag Racing?

Of course we know that for the most part organized drag racing started on the West Coast but not to be denied, the other states caught on quickly.  When the guys back east decided to go

Perfect weather indoors - 1962

drag racing, they really got serious.  Unlike the West Coast where there was good weather almost year round, when it closed in on them, they did what any rabid racer who suffers the dreaded “Nitro Methane In The Blood Disease” would do, they built an INDOOR drag strip.  Yep, that’s right, an indoor drag strip.


Nice lighting

In 1962 those crazy guys from Chicago built the “Chicago Area Raceway” – INDOORS.  It was located in the old International Amphitheater at 42nd and Halstead in Chicago Il.  It was built in ’34 as a livestock showplace and in ’68 housed the Democratic Convention and at least one Beetles concert.  Advertised as the world’s only indoor drag strip, it was open about 2yrs. and featured a 440 ft. strip with a 660 ft. shut off and included a pit area.  The United States Auto Club (USAC) sponsored it.  Don’t ask me what they did for ventilation but that’s the way we did it back in the good ole’ days.

I won; Now what?

‘See ya’ at the races (Outdoors).

Ronnie Hier


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NHRA - The 1st 50 years - DVD

NHRA - The 1st 50 years - DVD


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