Automorbit, Sport – Detroit Grand Prix chairman Bud Denker realized the annual IndyCar race on Belle Isle wouldn’t run as scheduled this year when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued her stay home order on March 23.
Denker concluded that outright cancelation was the only option.
Grand Prix organizers announced Monday that the May 29-31 event would not be held because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Track construction had been scheduled to begin April 20.
People who already have bought tickets can get refunds, or receive credit toward a 2021 ticket without a price increase.
“We are one of the best sports towns in America,” Denker said. “We are disappointed that we aren’t going to bring it to them this year, but we’re excited to build our plans for 2021. We’ll make this thing bigger and better than it’s ever been.”
Rescheduing the race for October was a consideration, but 43 gatherings already were scheduled to be held on Belle Isle that month.
“People don’t plan things during the Grand Prix weekend because it’s disruptive, and they know that,” Denker said. “To reschedule something in October, it wouldn’t have been right. We weren’t going to do that.”
The economic loss will be severe, as the Grand Prix generates more than $50 million each year in total spending, he said, pushing people into the city’s restaurants, bars, hotels and casinos.
“We’ve put in over $13 million in investments into Belle Isle Park because of the Grand Prix being there,” he said. “The money we raise at the Grand Prixmiere allows the aquarium to stay open free of charge, all year round to the public. That’s going to have a profound impact.”
The Detroit Grand Prix was not held from 2009 to 2011 because of the recession and the downturn in the city’s economy in general.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Detroit Grand Prix agreed in 2018 to keep the race on Belle Isle through 2021. It’s unclear whether the cancelation of the 2020 race will automatically tack on another year to the agreement.
The 2021 Detroit Grand Prix is scheduled for June 4-6 and will be the 31st Grand Prix in Detroit’s history. It began in 1982 as a Formula One race through the downtown streets before moving to Belle Isle in 1992.
IndyCar is scheduled to start its season June 6, 2020, at Texas Motor Speedway. In the meantime, Denker is encouraging fans to get their racing fix from iRacing, a virtual racing event.
The IndyCar iRacing Challenge began March 28 and has an entry list of 29 drivers. The April 4 race was broadcast live on NBCSN.
“It’s very exciting,” Denker said. “People want to see what’s going in the world of sports. It brings people together, brings excitement and motivates people.”