Detroit Grand Prix Contract Talks Approach The Finish Line

An announcement confirming that the Detroit Grand Prix will continue to be held on Belle Isle through 2021 is expected in the next week.

Alex McLenon

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has formally responded to a contract proposal from Detroit Grand Prix organizers to keep the race on Belle Isle.  They did so last night at a public meeting of the Belle Isle Advisory Committee, which also offered the last opportunity for public comment before the expected approval of the contract. 

The DNR agrees to accept the Grand Prix’s contract, albeit with a few tweaks, such as raising the race organizer’s yearly investment by a further $25,000 from the original offer.  Detroit Grand Prix officials last month proposed raising their own park rental fee by $100,000.

“It’s a 50% increase over what we have paid last year and have been paying,” says Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri.  “We feel like we had a pretty strong proposal off the get go.  They have come back to us and said, ‘hey, we would like a little bit more money,’ and we’re okay with that at this point.”

But protestors who oppose holding the race on Belle Isle don’t think the financial hike sweetens the pot enough.  The coordinator of the group known as Belle Isle Concern, Sandra Novacek, says the fee to hold the race on the island isn’t enough.

Alex McLenon

“I think that was kind of an insult,” says Novacek.  “It’s so minimal, I really don’t think it’s really even an issue of the money that they’re talking about.  Last year it was $200,000 and now they’re going up to $410,000, but that’s not much in the scheme of things.”

The DNR counters that the proposed level of annual investment outweighs the expected loss of revenue from public facility rentals while the race is on Belle Isle.  They say the difference is more than $250,000. 

As part of its evaluation of the Detroit Grand Prix contract, the DNR also conducted an environmental impact study.  Parks and Recreation division chief Ron Olson presented their findings at last night’s meeting, saying the event poses no significant threat to the island’s ecosystem.

“Most of the songbirds and other wildlife reside on the Flatwoods and on the east end of the island,” says Olson.  “That’s where all the habitat is.  The more formal developed end of the island is on the west end where the race takes place, and the bird migration occurs way prior so that’s not affected.”

The DNR also noted the presence of a bald eagle nest on the island, which is home to an eaglet.  While they report the eagle nest was not disturbed during this year’s Grand Prix, the department says TV helicopters accompanying the race will be barred from flying over the Flatwoods area of Belle Isle in the future.


  • Alex McLenon
    Alex McLenon is a Reporter with 101.9 WDET. McLenon is a graduate of Wayne State University, where he studied Media Arts & Production and Broadcast Journalism.