LAPORTE | While the boats of the F1 PROP Tour are racing around Stone Lake this weekend for the Maple City Grand Prix, officials believe the inaugural event will be revving up the local business community and economy as well as propelling downtown’s momentum forward.
“We know for sure that just having the race teams in town and their entourages and the number of local folks that come out to an event like this, we will be able to give a huge boost to the economy,” said Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are expecting 40 to 45 race teams.”
“This is a tremendous opportunity for local businesses. We are hopeful we are going to have huge crowds and draw thousands to LaPorte. It is going to be a very exciting event and fun for the community,” said LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo. “As numbers have shown, having events like these make a significant impact on the local community. We get to draw out local folks to come out and enjoy the restaurants and shops they may not take the opportunity to see and especially folks from out of town can come and see all the great things we offer here in LaPorte.”
Arnett said it is hard to estimate the number of spectators who will be out to watch the tunnel boats hit the water during the event, which launches Thursday night and wraps up Sunday.
“This is a first-time event at a first-time venue and weather will dictate a lot,” he said. “We work hard when we bring in an event like this to make sure all our front-line folks (from restaurants to hotels) know when to staff and that everyone understands the schedule and what to expect.”
LaPorte Downtown Director Tiffany Bley hopes the Maple City Grand Prix can have the same impact as the Super Boat Grand Prix brings to Michigan City.
“This will obviously take time, as with any event, but I feel the exposure of people to the community will in the long run keep them returning,” Bley said. “LaPorte County now offers two huge boat races to visitors, and a slew of great communities and experiences to boot.”
Building on the race, the city is having Restaurant Week where many restaurants will feature deals and have specially priced menu items as well as autograph sessions, vendors and a beer garden.
Also to draw visitors to downtown, there will be unlimited parking and special events, including the boat parade, country-themed block party, “The Downtown Hoe Down,” at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Herald Argus Parking lot and evening concerts in the park.
“I feel these events bring people into the community that otherwise would not visit and have an opportunity to experience the great restaurants, stores and architecture that both communities exhibit. I feel in the long run these positive experiences will increase visitation,” Bley said.
Her position was created about a year ago to help foster downtown revitalization and big events such as the boat races are building on consistent offerings such as Fitness Fridays and the farmers market.
Arnett is already laying the groundwork for the Maple City Grand Prix’s future by planning a review to help generate data.
“We are hiring a company to come in to give us the economic impact. They will not only give us a head count but also give us a pretty clear number to the amount of dollars generated,” he said. “This can help us tweak aspects of the event for the future.”
For more information, visit www.maplecitygrandprix.com.