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Volume 26 No. 7
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Organizers Of Detroit Grand Prix Want To Keep Race On Belle Isle

Detroit's Grand Prix is unable to pay for itself despite having 77 corporate sponsors
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Organizers of the Verizon IndyCar Series Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader on Belle Isle "plan to submit a proposal to the state next month for a new multi-year contract to continue staging the race on the island in the Detroit River," according to Bill Shea of CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS. Questions about the event's future "arose in recent months because the Grand Prix's five-year deal with the state Department of Natural Resources ends after" this weekend's races. GP Chair Bud Denker said, "My expectation is that after the Grand Prix, we'll meet with the DNR; and my intention is that we'll submit a proposal to continue to race into the future. My expectation is that we'll have a race there beyond this year." He added that a deal "must be in place by mid-summer because organizers cobble together" the '19 race schedules in August. Michigan DNR Parks and Recreation Division Chief Ron Olson said that he is "trying to balance the business and civic interest of the race with ongoing concern that the race monopolizes nice spring months at the expense of the public." Olson said that there is "no 'hard-and-fast time frame' for approving or denying a new contract proposal once one is submitted to him." He added that he will "consult with stakeholders and park staff and will want to closely review the terms of the proposal, including potential non-race-related island improvements and if the race is willing to adjust its fee to use Belle Isle." The Grand Prix canceled the '09-11 events "because of the recession." The event is "unable to pay for itself despite having 77 corporate sponsors for the second year in a row." Denker said that "eleven corporate sponsors are new this year" (CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS, 5/28 issue).

NOT HAPPY: In Detroit, Sarah Rahal noted a small group "gathered outside Belle Isle Park Saturday to protest" the Grand Prix. Belle Isle Concern, an organization "focused on getting the race removed from the island, organized the protest." The group believes Detroit's island park "should be a public space for residents, not a private Indy racetrack." Denker said that there "aren't any other locations within the city that would be viable for hosting the event, including suggested sites such as Detroit's City Airport and the former State Fairgrounds." He added that organizers "aren't looking to move the event outside of the city, either" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/27). Also in Detroit, Christine Ferretti notes race officials have "made changes in recent years to minimize the footprint of the race as well as the length of time that it restricts access to some portions of the island." Organizers said that this year, the "set up and tear-down for the race is slated to last 68 days," which is "down 27 days" from '15 (DETROIT NEWS, 5/30).

ALWAYS EVOLVING: Denker said that ticket sales for this year's GP are up 12% "from a year ago, that 77 businesses are supporting the IndyCar doubleheader -- 70-lap races run Saturday and Sunday -- 25 chalets have been sold and a larger grandstand has been put in play down the backstretch" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/30). In Detroit, Mike Brudenell wrote under sometimes "challenging circumstances," the GP has "endured and evolved." The race has "played a crucial role in the city’s history, moving forward and driving ahead." This weekend the Grand Prix will "attract close to 100,000 people" (FREEP.com, 5/29).