Engines roared, stopped and started again. Not the vision of all who took great pains and untold planning to present the world to the beautiful Detroit gem — sitting in international waters — called Belle Isle.
When Mayor Dave Bing and Lions star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh welcomed the local and international press, and the sold-out crowd to the Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix, all had reasons to smile and feel optimistic.
“As I look back at my first two years in office,” Mayor Bing told me in an interview, “there was a lot of talk that GM might move their world headquarters, but I’m so glad they decided to stay in the Renaissance Center in Detroit. Now with Chevrolet’s help and others the IndyCars are back in the Motor City. The economic impact and the innovations that will happen at Belle Isle are wonderful for the city.”
It is projected the last two race weekends on Belle Isle in 2007 and 2008 each hosted over 100,000 race fans and pumped an estimated $52 million or more into the Metro Detroit region. Post race analysis feel the 2012 event may have done even better.
Event Chairman Bud Denker echoed the Grand Prix’s impact in Detroit: “We had the biggest day ever on Saturday and another giant crowd on Sunday. Our volunteers were fantastic and the aerial camera shots by ABC made our track look wonderful. Also, we spent over $500 thousand in improvements to Belle Isle, and that means we plan on hosting this race for a long time.”
Mayor Bing expressed his delight that Denker and company have made a solid commitment to building on the 2012 event and making it even better.
As the grand marshal, Suh was honored to call the start of the race. “It’s really exciting,” he said. “You get to hear those engines roar and just get that thrill, like when you start at the beginning of a football game. I’m glad the race is back.”
Suh continued: “I see myself as a citizen here. I thought it was a great opportunity to show our city and others this is a great event.”
At NASCAR’s Subway FreshFit 500 in Phoenix where Suh was its grand marshal, Denker and Roger Penske talked with him about cars, Detroit, kids and asked, “How about putting all that together and being our grand marshal for the race here in Detroit?”
While putting much effort in the race event, Penske, who attended Culver’s Woodcraft Camp in 1950, saw how it helped shape his life. So he has extended the hand of fellowship to Detroit youth. He sponsors eleven students from the Motor City to attend Culver camps in Indiana. They were also lucky enough to have been treated to a behind-the-scenes action at the Grand Prix.
“To me, to have all the kids here today is pretty special,” Penske said. “We need to have leaders to be successful.”
Since 2008, Penske has been providing Detroit high school students an opportunity to grow as leaders, with discipline, at the Culver Academy.
“It definitely teaches you diversity and leadership,” Bowling Green sophomore Amara Huddleston, a graduate of the program, told a local reporter. “It teaches you to not only be a leader, but be an effective leader.”
Also, the Grand Prix provided impressive entertainment including the Four Tops , Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, the B-52’s, a Thornetta Davis, Frankie D’Angelo, Robin Horlock, the Second Ebenezer Gospel Choir, Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences Choir, British Beat 66, Ronnie Dunn, formerly of Brooks & Dunn, and Detroit’s Martin Luther King High School band performed in the Meijer Family Fun Zone, the race paddock, around the Scott Fountain and during pre-race ceremonies.
“We’re proud to have a wide range of local acts perform during the Grand Prix, both on the MotorCity Casino Hotel Entertainment Stage and during our pre-race celebrations,” said Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix event chairman Bud Denker. “It makes for another great dimension in an already spectacular weekend.”
All-in-all, Belle Isle showed the world its beauty and potential, and the roar of the fantastic machines enlivened the city.