Detroit Grand Prix organizers see future of downtown racing


Ron Olson, head of parks and recreation for the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which manages Belle Isle Park, said the race leaving the island would be a boon for park enthusiasts, but potentially a blow. for the park without the funds raised during the event. He said he was in talks with organizers to potentially continue philanthropic support for the park even if the race goes.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Olson said. “Partly because there are people who would prefer the Grand Prix not to be there because it has an impact. On our side, they have been good partners and they have helped Belle Isle.”

The race organizers’ agreement with the DNR to host the race on the island lasted until 2021, with an option to extend until 2023. The race was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic -19, she was entitled to an additional additional year. of that, Olson said.

In 2018, the annual event fee increased from $ 200,000 to $ 325,000, and the Grand Prix had to make an additional annual investment of $ 125,000 in the park. In addition, it was necessary to reduce the assembly and disassembly time from 25 to 59 days.

Nearly 100,000 people flocked to Belle Isle in 2019 for running events, with attendance closer to 30,000 to 35,000 this year at one of the region’s first major events since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Organizers have been criticized over the race blocking access to the park during peak season for outdoor recreation. New Oudolf Garden, which flourishes in the grip of the racetrack, also presents a permanent obstacle for race organizers.

This criticism played a role in the organizers seeking to leave the island.

“There’s a part of that, obviously, and we fully understand that,” Denker said. “When you’re in Belle Isle, there are physical barriers to getting in and out of the island. You don’t allow a lot of public access for free… There was certainly that consideration.”

Organizers have long argued that the race is more of a boon to Belle Isle than an obstacle, highlighting the $ 13.5 million organizers have invested in it since 2007 and the $ 5 million it has raised for charities. charities.

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