When Grand Rapids hosted a Grand Prix event, it attracted an estimated 150,000 spectators, $1 million in sponsorships and impacted the economy there by an estimated $20 million. Considering the vastly smaller scale of our city, it's unknown in today's economy how much of a financial benefit an event would bring here.
City Council deserves credit for considering the possibility of such an event here, but we’re left scratching our heads and wondering why Harbor Island is a good idea.
While Harbor Island has been the location of many family-oriented events, cars racing in circles around the tiny island would not be desirable from an environmental or common sense perspective. Part of the novelty of such staged Grand Prix events is witnessing high-performance vehicles traversing up and down city streets. It's an unconventional sight that has been the success of the concept.
Many local residents have voiced excitement about the prospect of seeing race cars clog the streets for one shining moment. It would be hard to imagine that spectators, especially parents with children in tow, would walk away disappointed. It would be an exhilarating experience for nearly anyone.
But let's rule out building millions of dollars’ worth of race tracks on Harbor Island.
The 140-acre island already accommodates a power plant, marina and public boat launch. The remainder of the property is a haven for bird and wildlife watchers, hikers, soccer players, and cyclists. Anyone who has been there is aware that the adjacent wetland and pond areas provide views of geese and ducks, in addition to prized glimpses of less common waterfowl and wading birds — such as great egrets, European widgeons and black-crowned night herons.
Packing spectators into such a small area to watch cars go around in circles would be — for lack of a better term — for the birds.
No race engines should throttle up on Harbor Island. There's no need to study that location. Leave it as is, and as it should be — a nice little place to get away from the roar of the city.