Story Credit: Jared DePouw
Photos Credit: Jared DePouw
Since 2007 the NTT IndyCar Series has been racing on the streets of historic Belle Isle Park right in the middle of the Detroit River, separating the United States from Canada. And while the race itself occurs in Detroit, Michigan there’s no arguing the value of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix weekend in neighboring Windsor, Ontario. While there’s no doubt that both of the “Two-Nation Destination” cities of Detroit and Windsor benefit from the Grand Prix, the vast majority of the benefits of the race go to the owners of Belle Isle Park: The State of Michigan.
Each of the last two years has seen attendance at the annual race exceed 100,000 fans, generating vast tourism revenue for everyone involved in the race. Both Detroit and Windsor benefit from increased travel (hotels, restaurants, etc), while the State of Michigan gets money from the use of the island which is a state park.
This money is not insignificant. Over $1 million per year from the race goes back into improvements to Belle Isle itself, generating over $13.5 million total since the race returned in 2007. This money doesn’t even include the revenue generated from the annual Grand Prixmere Gala, which raises money for the Belle Isle Conservatory. In fact, 2018 saw the gala raise over $1 million itself of which $450,000 was dedicated to maintenance and restoration of the Scott Fountain where victory circle celebrations are held.
While there are vast benefits to the Grand Prix, there are some negative consequences as well. One of the primary concerns are the environmental impact of the race. It’s very difficult to bring over 100,000 people to a small section of the island without there being a lot of garbage and waste being generated. Fortunately the race promoters and countless volunteers work tirelessly to help keep Belle Isle clean so as to minimize the effects of everything.
Another big argument against the race involves the limited accessibility of parts of Belle Isle in the months leading up to the race. It is true that building a race track takes time. Not only does the track need to be built, but so do the grandstands and other temporary buildings that support the race. And while the track is located in the western part of the island, the entire rest of the island remains open all the way up until the race weekend itself.
There is no really good argument against having a race on Belle Isle. While there are some drawbacks to the event, the economic impact on the surrounding area, let alone the island itself, far outweigh the negatives. The automobile built the city of Detroit, it’s only right that for one weekend a year we get to see just what’s “Made in Detroit” in the shadow of the GM Renaissance Center.