Grand Prix crowd could be record, LaPorte County tourism official says

2013-08-05T17:55:00Z 2013-08-05T22:46:04Z Grand Prix crowd could be record, LaPorte County tourism official saysStan Maddux Times Correspondent
August 05, 2013 5:55 pm  • 

MICHIGAN CITY | Mother nature may have helped deliver a record crowd at Sunday’s Great Lakes Grand Prix in Michigan City.

"It looks like the weather pushed us over the top," said Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Arnett said it’ll be one to two weeks before official numbers are in, but attendance for the races along Lake Michigan, judging by early estimates, could exceed 90,000 if not the 100,000 mark.

That would set a record for the Great Lakes Grand Prix, which has been in Michigan City every year since 2009, drawing crowds upwards of 60,000 to 70,000 people.

"We’re going to be pushing that 90 maybe that 100,000 range," said Arnett.

Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer would not speculate on whether any records were set but felt the attendance was impressive.

"We really had traffic flowing in on our main corridors," said Meer.

Last year’s Grand Prix with tens of thousands of people already on the beach was canceled just prior to the start of the races.

Conditions were too choppy for boats that can top 100 mph to safely navigate.

Arnett said there was a gentler 1- to 3-foot chop this year and the races Sunday went on without a hitch. He credited the comfortable temperatures and clear skies for bringing out more spectators.

He also suggested record crowds of more than 20,000 for Saturday’s boat parade and Taste of Michigan City downtown.

Arnett said the average $6 million to $7 million economic impact of the Grand Prix surely will be higher from the expected record head count.

"There’s no doubt we’re going to see a surge there," said Arnett.

Meer feels there’s room for the Grand Prix — already the largest event locally — to become even more of an attraction.

"It always brings a lot of folks in. We want to see it grow," said Meer.

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