Raceway at Belle Isle Park
A 982-acre island in the Detroit River, Belle Isle is owned by the City of Detroit and in 2014 was leased by the State of Michigan and is now managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Connected to Detroit by the MacArthur Bridge, various entities call Belle Isle home, including the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Detroit Boat Club Crew, the Detroit Yacht Club, a municipal golf course, an aquarium and a Coast Guard post.
The island also includes a half-mile swimming beach, the only one in the city, and a nature center. The aquarium opened in 1904, making it the oldest public aquarium in the United States. Constructed, in part, by “the man who built Detroit,” Albert Kahn, the aquarium features an arched tile-green ceiling, designed to evoke the feeling of being underwater.
Landscaped in the 1880s by Frederick L. Olmsted, the highlights of Belle Isle include the aquarium, James Scott Memorial Fountain and the botanical garden in the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. The conservatory and the 1908 Belle Isle Casino were also constructed by Kahn, well-known for developing open-floor plan concrete factories. The casino building is not a gambling facility, but it is used for public events. Belle Isle also was home to a large herd of European fallow deer for more than 50 years. A few remain as exhibits at the nature center, but the last of the 300 animals was captured in 2004 and relocated.
In the future, Belle Isle will feature a new garden created by renowned designer Piet Oudolf, who designed the world-famous High-Line park in New York City, as well as parts of Chicago’s Millennium Park. With a past as storied as any place in Detroit, the future looks bright for Belle Isle.
Belle Isle was home to the Detroit Grand Prix from 1992-2001, utilizing a temporary street circuit that was constructed specifically for the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) races. In 2007 and 2008, it once again hosted world-class racing with both the open-wheel cars of the IndyCar Series and the sports cars of the American Le Mans Series competing at the event. After a four-year absence, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear returned to the island in 2012 with IndyCar Series, GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and Pirelli World Challenge Championship Series races. The same three racing series competed at the event in 2013 on the newly-reconfigured 2.35-mile Belle Isle street circuit while featuring the first doubleheader race weekend in the IndyCar Series. In 2014, the Grand Prix hosted a picture-perfect weekend on the Detroit River featuring another IndyCar Series doubleheader race weekend - the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit. The new unified sports car series also competed at Belle Isle with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Pirelli World Challenge Series also returned to the island. For the first time, the Stadium Super Trucks (SST) raced at the Grand Prix in front of the over 110,000 fans in attendance on race weekend. The same lineup returned in 2015 and brought 65,000 people to Belle Isle during a rainy Grand Prix weekend.
In 2016, a crowd of 95,000 witnessed another action-packed weekend of racing featuring the IndyCar Series competing in the Chevy Dual in Detroit with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the return of the Trans Am Series and the SST Trucks.
Over 100,000 fans visited Belle Isle during Grand Prix weekend in 2017 and they enjoyed the IndyCar Series races, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli and the SST Trucks on track. According to an independent economic study, the 2017 Grand Prix generated $58 million in total spending for the region.
With seven races run over three days, the same series returned to Detroit in 2018 and approximately 105,000 fans witnessed the intense competition on the Belle Isle street circuit.
Last year, the three-day racing festival waived the green flag on the summer season in the Motor City as 95,000 fans witnessed the NTT IndyCar Series competing in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli on the first weekend in June on Belle Isle.
The event returns to Belle Isle, May 29-31, 2020, once again featuring the NTT IndyCar Series in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit doubleheader and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competing in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic. The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns with two races over the three-day weekend, and NEW in 2020, the Historic Trans-Am Series will bring classic cars from one of the Golden Eras of Trans Am racing to Belle Isle with races on Saturday and Sunday of race weekend.
The Grand Prix continues its efforts to help revitalize Detroit’s island jewel – Belle Isle Park. Together with its partners, the event has made over $13.5 million in upgrades and improvements on the island since the Grand Prix returned in 2007. The Grand Prixmiere, the annual fundraising event held during race weekend, has generated more than $5 million for the Belle Isle Conservancy over the last six years. In 2018, $450,000 of the $1 million raised at the Grand Prixmiere was dedicated to needed repairs that will help keep the iconic James Scott Memorial Fountain on the island operational for years to come.