Penske on Grand Prix Controversy: Belle Isle “Never Looked Better”
The Detroit Grand Prix has become a polarizing topic in recent years, with accusations that it mars the natural beauty of the island.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect reporting from the 2018 Grand Prix contract negotiations and additional reporting on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources operational and capital outlay budget for Belle Isle.
The Detroit Grand Prix returns to the streets of Belle Isle this weekend. It’s the 30th time the races have been held in the city and the first year of competition under the event’s new contract. However, the event has become a polarizing topic in recent years.
Opponents say car racing has no place on Belle Isle, arguing it’s disruptive and takes away from the natural beauty of an island designated a state park.
Those in favor of the Grand Prix point to the event predating Belle Isle’s state park status. Supporters add that most of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources yearly budget for island improvements stems from the races and associated events, as reported by WDET’s Alex McLenon last year. Since 2018, $450,000 in funding from the Grand Prix and related activities has gone to improvements and maintenance of the James Scott Memorial Fountain and the Belle Isle Aquarium, according to Michigan DNR Parks chief Ron Olson, in addition to operational funds that make up about half of the DNR’s total operational budget for the park.
WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter talked to one of the race’s organizers and a driver about the conflict.