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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When thinking of Detroit, Michigan, one does not usually imagine a sporting city where racing is a big draw. Instead, the Pistons, Tigers, Lions, or Red Wings are what come to mind. However, I am here to tell you that this is a misnomer and a false front, because people in Detroit love their motor racing. And nothing illustrates that quite like the Grand Prix of Detroit. Situated on a street circuit on Belle Isle, the Grand Prix of Detroit features several different racing series over three days of action, one of which is free to the public.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Finding something to eat at the Detroit GP is not a difficult task. The way the track is set up, there is plenty of space on the inside of the course for fans to find their favorite food and munch away on a classic piece of sports fare. With a giant food court area set up, including various food trucks from around the area, fans have multiple options. For drinks, there are several beer stands around the track, with a cold brew costing you anywhere from $6 to $12. For something to eat, there is no shortage of choices to pick from. Whether you want a traditional burger and fries or something along the lines of a sausage, peppers, and onions sandwich, you have lots to decide on. A standard meal with a drink will run you about $6 to $10, with some going higher, depending upon what you order, of course. All in all, this is a very fair and standard price for most sporting events. And the best part? You can eat it all under the shade of a tree.
The atmosphere in Detroit is electric. After all, you are in the Motor City, the home of the Big Three. And with that said, there are plenty of displays and supporters for each manufacturer, with the rest wanting to spoil the party. In addition, Belle Isle is a beautiful location in which to hold a race. Wide sprawling greens dotted with giant, majestic and mature trees makes for a day-in-the-park feel. Plus, with the backdrop of downtown Detroit almost perfectly placed behind every vantage point on track, it just adds to the mystique of it all.
Lets face it, we all have heard the rumors of how terrible Detroit is. But I am here to tell you it isn't THAT bad. The city is doing a LOT to try and revitalize the area, and it shows in many places. Downtown Detroit is very nice, as well. Most impressive is Belle Isle itself. Making this ranking even higher, however, is the closeness of our wonderful neighbors to the north, Canada! Windsor is merely a minute's drive across the Ambassador Bridge or under the tunnel. It truly does make the Grand Prix of Detroit a "Two-Nation Destination."
The fans at the Grand Prix of Detroit are very friendly. That said, it is hard to actually say that the fans are what one would consider series-knowledgeable. While most certainly have a driver they are pulling for over others, it is almost always someone who is well-known. Most fans are there to soak in some good old-fashioned racing and drool over the beautiful cars that are racing in the various events throughout the weekend.
Getting to Belle Isle isn't a difficult process. The issue lies in the lack of on-island parking. Most spots are reserved for either VIPs or teams/workers. That said, there are numerous buses that will take you from either the outside of the island or from downtown. These can be very convenient, should you be coming to the race and staying at one of the downtown hotels.
As far as getting around the track itself, the island is pretty easy to maneuver. Once you arrive on property, you can cross the main pedestrian bridges into the infield area that let you out either by the pits and paddock or by the main fan zones. If walking isn't something you feel up to either, there are a handful of fan golf carts that can ferry you to and from different spots on the course.
For a street course, Detroit's Belle Isle is really impressive. Unlike St. Pete or Downtown Miami, Belle Isle is surrounded by green space. The air just feels cleaner. The shade is more plentiful there. The grandstands are well-placed, as well, providing for great views of the racing action in all the best places. Belle Isle is indeed a mix of convenience, beauty, relaxation, and great on-track action.
Belle Isle is one of those tracks with great social media interaction. Throughout the weekend, in between races, the big screens around the property are showing rolling tweets and Instagram posts from fans. You can get your pics seen by everyone, which makes for a great way to talk to fellow fans.
Another great thing is the access to the drivers. There are numerous autograph sessions during the race weekend, giving you the chance to meet your favorite driver and get their autograph.
One of the neatest experiences for fans that is set up is also the chance to ride in a monster truck. Race patrons line up to get a seat in a multi-seat open-air monster truck that drives around the property at the far end of the race course.
Also, garage access is open and free to the public, with the exception of the IndyCar Series haulers. Even so, pit passes are not that much more for an upgrade. This gives you the chance to see your favorite driver's car up close as it is being prepared for on-track action.
Another bonus point goes to the big concerts that the race weekend puts on. Saturday night and Sunday afternoon include shows by acts like 3 Doors Down and Smash Mouth. These are not exactly top of the Billboard 100 sort of acts, but pretty impressive nonetheless. And the best part? They are free to all fans in attendance.
The Detroit Belle Isle circuit is one of the nicest city courses out there...provided it doesn't rain. And even with the downpour at this particular race we attended, it still was some exciting and close racing action on-track. The fans have a great view of the event, nonetheless. This is definitely a must-see, should you be a fan of racing or just sports in general.
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