Chevrolet’s contract with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold the annual Detroit Grand Prix racing event on the city’s scenic island of Belle Isle has officially ended with the conclusion of Sunday’s racing, again calling into question the future of the event. Where we’d previously reported that organizers had considered other venues around the city, Penske Corporation President Bud Denker told reporters that, in truth, “There’s no Plan B. If we don’t have it on Belle Isle then we won’t be here in Detroit.”
Many Detroit residents remain opposed to the Grand Prix, which effectively puts the Belle Isle state park out of commission for some weeks out of each year while the race course and associated infrastructure is erected and torn down again. But Denker said that the permanent improvements that have been made to the park represent a strong case for the event to continue.
“When we came here in 2007, Belle Isle wasn’t a very good place,” he said. “It wasn’t clean, wasn’t safe. The improvements to Belle Isle are what we’re most proud of. The first thing we wanted to work on was infrastructure. We built two bridges, fixed the roadways, fixed the drainage, added playgrounds and beautiful lighting.”
And that’s not to mention the economic benefits to the city, Denker said, calling Detroit and the island of Belle Isle the real winners of the annual racing event. “Look at the jobs we create down here. The people are down here working, getting paid. The volunteers don’t get paid. We have 100 of them. But everybody else down here is employed, and they’re paying taxes. That’s a key value in itself.”
Denker continued: “The pictures of our shoreline, our riverfront, our island. How do you put a value on that? It’s a postcard to the world.”
Chevrolet and Penske plan to submit a proposal to the Michigan DNR in order to keep the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix alive. According to him, the old city airport and Michigan State Fairgrounds, while considered alternative venues in the past, are not today regarded as viable options.
(Source: The Detroit News)