DNR and Detroit Grand Prix reach agreement to keep event at Belle Isle Park

Contact: Ron Olson (DNR), 517-243-1477
Agency: Natural Resources

Aug. 10, 2018

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that it has finalized the terms of an agreement with the Detroit Grand Prix that will keep the event at Belle Isle Park for the next three years, with an option to extend the agreement for an additional two years. 

The final agreement reduces the Detroit Grand Prix’s total time spent on Belle Isle for set-up, the race weekend and take-down from 84 days in its previous contract with the City of Detroit to 60 days in 2019 and 59 days beginning in 2020 in the new agreement with the State of Michigan. In addition, the new agreement will increase the annual fee paid by the Grand Prix from $200,000 in the Detroit contract to $325,000. 

Other key provisions in the new agreement:

  • An annual Detroit Grand Prix investment in the park of $125,000 – in addition to the annual fee – to be used at the DNR’s discretion for park-improvement projects.
  • Requirement that the Grand Prix continue to remove barriers and other equipment from the island after completion of the event, as it did in 2018. 
  • The Detroit Grand Prix’s commitment to host the annual Grand Prixmiere fund-raising event, which has raised an average of $800,000 annually for Belle Isle over the last several years. Grand Prixmiere funds will be used to keep the Belle Isle Aquarium operating free to the public, complete a priority infrastructure project yet to be announced and benefit the Belle Isle Conservancy.

Based on the historical average of the Grand Prixmiere contribution, which depends on private donations, the agreement represents a total estimated compensation package of $1.25 million a year, which is more than a third of Belle Isle Park’s annual operating budget. 

Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said the department reached a final decision after considering the scope of public feedback and thoroughly evaluating the cost-versus-benefit impact of hosting the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park. 

“The Grand Prix and Belle Isle Park are important parts of Detroit’s history,” Olson said. “We believe that we have arrived at a plan that honors them both, while enhancing the long-term support critical to managing this unique state park.” 

Olson cited the following reasons in the department’s decision to finalize the agreement:

  • Benefits to the park. Since 2007, the Detroit Grand Prix and its partners have invested more than $13.5 million in enhancements to Belle Isle Park’s natural and cultural resources. This includes Recreation Passport sponsorship for hundreds of Detroit residents, maintenance and repairs of the MacArthur Bridge and the James Scott Memorial Fountain, along with other improvements made to the island and funding for community programs like “Bringing the Outdoors to the Neighborhood.” The Grand Prix generated an estimated $58 million in total spending for the Detroit metropolitan area in 2017. 
  • Limited impact to natural resources. Environmental assessments conducted by DNR staff show that the Detroit Grand Prix’s presence on Belle Isle Park has little to no long-term impact on area wildlife and natural areas. DNR wildlife and stewardship experts concluded that event setup starts after bird and waterfowl migration occurs, and most animals and birds were found to be living in the flatwoods area on the park’s east end, opposite the race location. 
  • Historical significance. The Detroit Grand Prix has been a highly visible presence on Belle Park each year from 1992 to 2001, in 2007, 2008, and every year since 2012. It is a signature event that elevates the city of Detroit nationally, stimulates the region’s tourism economy and provides an important chapter in Michigan’s ongoing automotive story. 

Throughout the evaluation process, the DNR offered avenues for people to share their opinions, including several public meetings and an email address to which several hundred messages were sent. Since the first public meeting in September 2017, the department has received steady feedback. 

The final agreement, as well as the Detroit Grand Prix’s original proposal and the DNR’s counter-proposal, are available at the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee website.

Belle Isle Park, a 982-acre island park located in the Detroit River near downtown Detroit, is rich with natural beauty and historical and cultural resources. The park – managed as Michigan’s 102nd state park – is home to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Aquarium, a golf course, the James Scott Memorial Fountain and many more attractions popular with all ages and interests.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.