MICHIGAN CITY — Plans are underway for the 11th annual Great Lakes Grand Prix, which this year will be part of a new racing circuit and expanded championship series.
The Grand Prix, which annually packs the city lakefront, will be part of a partnership between the world’s leading marine motorsport brand, Powerboat P1, and OPA Racing. They’ve created the American Power Boat Association (APBA) Offshore Championship, with Michigan City hosting the penultimate round, according to Jane Daley of Visit Michigan City La Porte.
The goal of the new partnership and the Great Lakes Grand Prix “is to strengthen the future of racing in the country by delivering an expanded, cohesive, world class championship split equally between northern and southern states,” Daley said. “And the belief is that the new series will produce significant results commercially and also in terms of the sport’s organization and profile.”
And for Michigan City, the event has another dramatic effect – bringing in visitors and their money.
“Visitors to last year’s event pumped more than $12.4 million into La Porte County’s economy, the highest amount ever, and $2 million more than the 2017 event,” Daley said. “In addition, a report summarizing the figures, released by Visit Michigan City La Porte, showed an all-time high attendance of more than 190,000 people for the three-day event in 2018.”
For race weekend this year, P1 will serve up a double bill of powerboat and personal watercraft racing. The AquaX USA Pro Series attracts top personal watercraft riders from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as South America and Europe. The series comes to MC for the third round of a six-venue championship.
Also new to the event this year will be the Great Lakes Grand Prix Golf Outing, hosted at the Michigan City Municipal Golf Course on July 31.
Teams can spend a day on the links before heading to the lakefront, Daley said, and all the proceeds will be donated to Reins of Life, which provides therapeutic equine-assisted riding lessons for children and adults with disabilities.
The full schedule for the four-day event in still being finalized, but there will be a ribbon-cutting and VIP event showcasing race boats on Thursday evening at the Sunset Grille in Washington Park. There will also be live entertainment on the boardwalk from 6-10 p.m.
On Friday, Race City will open with food and merchandise vendors at noon; and the day will include an on-the-water poker run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and free entertainment on the boardwalk from 6-10 p.m.
VIP race viewing at the boardwalk tents will begin on Saturday, along with a bean bag tournament at 1 p.m., and free live entertainment from 7-11 p.m.
There will be a catered VIP brunch on Sunday, followed that evening with the racer’s trophy event at Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa at 5 p.m. VIP credentials will go on sale July 2 at the Visit Michigan City La Porte office.
Food and beer gardens will be open Friday starting at 11 a.m., and on Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m.
In addition, the Taste of Michigan City will run simultaneously in the Uptown Arts District from 4-11 p.m. Friday and noon-11 p.m. Saturday, with a free shuttle loop running from Washington Park and Taste of Michigan City. There will also be continuous free shuttle service from Washington Park to Ames Field on Saturday and Sunday. Due to expected large crowds, visitors are urged to take advantage of the free parking and shuttle.
Other corresponding events include a vintage car show in Washington Park from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday; the EVP Volleyball Tournament both days; and Boat Parade and Block Party at 6 p.m. Saturday on Franklin Street from 9th to 4th. Sunday will feature a charity silent auction at 10 a.m. with proceeds going to Michigan City Emergency Management volunteers.
“There will be more surprises scheduled, so stay turned for future announcements,” Daley said.
For more information, visit greatlakesgrandprix.com or call the Visitors Center at (219) 872-5055. For more information on the golf outing, contact Chris Magnuson at (219) 873-1516 or Cmagnuson@emichigancity.com.
—From staff reports
Upcoming 2019 APBA Offshore Championship Race events:
n July 5-7 Sarasota, Florida
n July 26-28 St. Clair, Michigan
n Aug. 2-4 Michigan City, Indiana
n Sept. 28-29 Clearwater, Florida