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Is It Time To Bring Back The West Michigan Grand Prix To Downtown Grand Rapids? [Poll]

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Memorial Day weekend means the Indianapolis 500! This weekend will be the 97th running of the race.

But it’s been 14 years since race cars took to the streets of downtown Grand Rapids for the West Michigan Grand Prix.

Is it time to bring back the West Michigan Grand Prix?

The West Michigan Grand Prix was first run in 1998.  It was run again in 1999.  Thousands attended each year, but the race didn’t last.  It hasn’t been run since.

In 2008, WZZM investigated why the race failed:

With the help of city leaders, the West Michigan Grand Prix put up grandstands on streets and parking lots, carved out a raceway along city streets, and brought in a lot of fans.

Charlie Steen (who helped organize the event) explains, “We had over 100 local sponsors generating over $1.5 million dollars. We had over 140,000 people in attendance for both years.”

So, why did the event only last two years? Steen says, “We were unable to get major corporate sponsorship.”

Even if they could get the money now, Steen says a reprise is unlikely now because of all of the changes and development downtown.

Changes and development continue in downtown Grand Rapids making it more difficult to organize what was once an exceptional track.

Race track designer, Alan Wilson, discussed the track in 1997 at theautochannel.com:

World-renowned race track designer Alan Wilson was involved in the design process of the 1.5-mile, 13-turn circuit. “Its an exceptional venue and a great course,” said Wilson. “With the river, bridges and city buildings, it will be a venue that will offer the drivers a great challenge, excellent spectator viewing and look great on television as well.”

Moving to another part of town might be less exciting, but it could make the return of the race more likely.  And maybe we’d get to see Tim Allen race again?

I’m not a huge racing fan, but I would be interested to see racing downtown.  In fact, I still have my original West Michigan Grand Prix t-shirt!

Matt Milhouse

I’m expecting the Grand Rapids Public Museum to request to see it any day now.

Tell us if you think it’s time for the West Michigan Grand Prix to return, then party like it’s 1999 and check out the video filled with West Michigan Grand Prix highlights below.

Follow Matt Milhouse on Facebook and Twitter.

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