Tuesday, May 29, 2018

5 Reasons to move the Detroit Grand Prix

Helio Castroneves races in Detroit
Photo by Nic Redhead/Flickr
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will return to Belle Isle this weekend. This year, like every year, there have been protests from those who want to the island park to be a more tranquil refuge.

While I love the Grand Prix and all that it contributes to Detroit, I believe that the best of course of action is to build a permanent, municipally owned facility for auto racing within the city of Detroit. The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix should, of course, remain on Belle Isle while a new facility is being designed and constructed. However, there should be no doubt that it is time for the race to move.

I have five reasons for why I believe this should be done.

Reason 1: Money
Red Bull Rallycross on Belle Isle
Photo by Frank Nemecek
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix brings an impressive amount of money into Detroit. However, I believe that we are getting a tiny fraction of its potential from a permanent racing facility.

We have the Grand Prix for three days each summer. However, Detroit is no longer a stop on the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, at least in part due to the challenges of having another temporary racetrack on Belle Isle during the summer months.

In addition, Detroit is not a stop on the MotoAmerica racing circuit for motorcycles nor do we have any snowmobile racing events here in the winter.

It's almost impossible to have temporary facilities for all of these races. By opting to only have a temporary racing facility on Belle Isle, we are missing out on the potential revenue from having multiples races on several different weekends throughout the year in a permanent facility.

Reason 2: More Money
Weddings are currently a $72 billion dollar industry in the United States, according to industry data. Belle Isle is already a somewhat popular destination for weddings. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Casino, and the Detroit Yacht Club are all popular wedding venues. The Detroit Boat Club has also hosted weddings in recent years and, with more renovations, has the potential for even more.

Wedding Cake - Photo by Cleiton Isoton
Moreover, May and June are two of the busiest months for weddings. This is important because the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix keeps much of Belle Isle tied up for most of May and June. Sometimes, the teardown for it even stretches into early July.

May, June, and July, by the way, are peak wedding season.

I, therefore, have to ask the question: why in the world would anyone in their right mind want to keep a popular wedding destination tied up during the busiest time for weddings?

This is like owning a toy store and closing it in November and December when everyone is looking for Christmas presents for their kids.

This is like owning a costume shop and closing it in October when everyone is looking for Halloween costumes.

This is like owning a bar and closing it down when Charlie Sheen comes to town.

Okay - that last one might actually be a good idea. Charlie Sheen does have a reputation for getting a little too wild when he drinks.

Anyway, the point here is that weddings are a $72 billion industry, Belle Isle is a popular wedding destination, and we're closing it during peak wedding season. All of that money, therefore, has to be spent elsewhere and it's usually not within the Detroit city limits.

And forcing people to spend lots of money outside of Detroit is simply not a good idea.

Reason 3 - Still More Money
Music festival - Photo from Pixabay
When a permanent racing facility isn't hosting a race, it is routinely used to host music festivals and other events - all of which generate more money for the local economy. The Daytona International Speedway hosts the Country 500 Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend. The Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan hosts the Faster Horses Country Music Festival in July. The Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California hosts the HARD Summer Music Festival in August.

The list goes on and on. Hosting a music festival at a speedway is an established business model that event producers have down to a science. All of these events pump large amounts of cash into the local economy, with attendees traveling from out of state or even from outside of the country to attend.

As a related sidenote, now that the WYCD Hoedown has abandoned its traditional location in downtown Detroit for the DTE Music Theatre in Clarkston, I would love to see something like a speedway lure them back.

Regardless, the point stands: a speedway is a well-established location for a music festival. Detroit is missing out on yet another driver for our local economy.

Reason 4 - Did I mention money?
Beach volleyball - Photo from Pixabay
By keeping Belle Isle tied up with the Chevrolet Grand Prix for so much of the year, not only are we as a community missing out not only a significant slice of the wedding industry, we are also missing out on the opportunity to have other, smaller events on the island during that time period as well. Purely from a logistical and operational standpoint, it's extremely difficult to have other events on the island when half of it is taken up for the race.

We are missing out on a chance to have beach volleyball tournaments on the Belle Isle Beach. Even smaller tournaments will bring in a few thousand dollars. Larger ones, like any of the AVP Beach Volleyball Tournaments, have an economic impact that rivals the grand prix.

We are missing out on a chance to re-open the Remick Band Shell and have a series of smaller concerts there.

We are missing out on fishing contests at the island's South Fishing Pier and elsewhere.

We are simply missing out on so many other events that could happen on Belle Isle during those months.

Reason 5 - Detroit's Image
I mentioned above that moving the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix to a municipally-owned speedway would allow for more than just one race per year. This, I believe, is important for Detroit's image.

Detroit is a city that is synonymous with the automobile. We aren't called the Motor City for nothing. And one of the best ways to show off cars is by racing them.

Auto racing - Photo from Pixabay
In spite of this connections between cars and racing, the city built on cars only has one auto race per year. Meanwhile, Atlanta, Georgia; Kansas City, Kansas; and St. Louis, Missouri all have multiple professional auto races every year. Besides not having an obvious connection to the automobile industry, each of those four cities also has a smaller population than Detroit, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

I don't mean any disrespect to any of these communities. I'm just going to say that if you went to any place in the world and asked random people what was that they associate with Kansas City, Kansas, there aren't very many people who would say "cars."

In spite of that, Kansas City, Kansas (population 151,709) can put together three professional auto races every year in comparison to Detroit, with its population of 672,795 car-loving people, which can only pull off a measly one race per year.

This is embarrassing.


This is why, I believe, Detroit needs to build a municipally-owned speedway.

Monday, May 28, 2018


Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church (as seen from the rear) - Photo by Frank Nemecek
This spectacular day in the Warrendale neighborhood is brought to you by the more than one million souls who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation. The lives that they lost have made the lives that we enjoy today possible.

As we enjoy this day with our friends and family, I pray that each of us lives a life that is worthy of their sacrifice.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mayor Young's 100th birthday

Mayor Coleman A. Young rallies in Detroit (circa 1981) - Creative Commons photo from Wikicommons
Mayor Coleman A. Young of Detroit would have turned 100 years old today if had lived this long. As one reflects on his life, I believe that both his critics and devotees will agree that Mayor Young had more of an impact on the city of Detroit than anyone else in the 20th century.

I had a part-time job working in his Administration while going to college. While my duties were exceedingly low-level and I rarely interacted with him, I must admit that I learned more from Mayor Young than I did some of my professors.

While the Warrendale neighborhood in Detroit was at the heart of the ABC Vote (as in Anybody But Coleman) during the 1970s and 80s, I would feel remiss if I didn't make note of the anniversary today. As a young boy growing up in the neighborhood, I remember almost all of my elders complaining about Mayor Young.

There is no doubt that Mayor Young had more than a few flaws. However, I believe that history remembers him much more kindly than any of the ABC voters of my youth did.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A calling in its self

Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church (Westside) - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Mark Mroz has served as an altar server at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit for the past 28 years. He started doing it as an opportunity to volunteer and later discovered that being an adult altar server is a calling unto its self.

Mroz and other adult altar servers at churches in the Detroit area were featured in The Michigan Catholic this week. The full article is available online here.

I join other Catholics in the Warrendale neighborhood and across the metropolitan Detroit area in expressing my gratitude to Mroz for his 28 years of dedicated service. I'm also thankful to The Michigan Catholic for highlighting him in this fashion.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Friends of Rouge Park Meets Tonight

Friends of Rouge Park - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The non-profit community group Friends of Rouge Park will have a general meeting this evening at 6 p.m. This meeting will happen at Westside Christian Academy (9540 Bramell St.), which is near Outer Drive and West Chicago.

This meeting will include:

  • Update from the City and discussion on the coming new Brennan Pools Splash Pad, Sports Field at Joy & Spinoza;
  • Update on the Sorensen Recreation Area improvements (historical signage);
  • Update on the Scout Hollow Camping Initiative; and
  • Update on Detroit Open Streets Event coming to Rouge Park in July.

Everyone who is interested in the future of Rouge Park is welcome to attend. This is the largest park in Detroit and a tremendous asset for the Warrendale neighborhood.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Getting a discount on Amazon Prime

Colorful dimes - Creative Commons photo by Billy Frank Alexander
There are, unfortunately, more than a few low-income households within the Warrendale neighborhood and in the rest of the city of Detroit. I was excited, therefore, to learn that Amazon has rolled out a new program whereby anyone who gets either Medicaid or food stamps can also get a discounted membership on Amazon Prime.

This discount enables low-income households to save on everything from clothes, diapers, furniture, and everything else that Amazon currently sells. (Sidenote: I'm old enough to remember when Amazon only sold books. These days, it's hard to think of any legitimate product that they don't sell.)

Amazon is already the go-to online shopping destination for upper-income households. This discount program is part of the company's strategy to pull lower-income shoppers away from their main competitor, which is Walmart.

Prospective shoppers should simply sign up by clicking here to get their discounted membership in Amazon Prime and start saving money.

Also, while my readers are shopping on Amazon, I also want to mention that with the Amazon Smiles program, everything that you buy on the site can also mean a donation for Preservation Detroit and other great Detroit-based charities.

Discounted membership on Amazon Prime is your Tip of the Week for the week of May 14 as part of this blog's semi-regular Tip of the Week feature. Please check back next week for more tips on money, home, and life. Please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more great content.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Aerial view of Rouge Park

Millard Berry shared a video to YouTube recently that shows aerial footage from a drone as it flies over Rouge Park in Detroit. This video clip is only one minute and 22 seconds long. However, it shows some spectacular views of the Scout Hollow campsite and the Rouge River.

This video is one more reminder, I believe, of how lucky we are in the Warrendale neighborhood to have Rouge Park so close to us.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Detroit to spend $58 million on roads this year

Road construction - File photo by Frank Nemecek
The City of Detroit announced plans this week to $58 million this year resurfacing a total of 88 miles of roadways. Included in this proposal is the resurfacing of Artesian Street between Ford Rd. and Paul St. at the southern end of Warrendale.

There will also be several other residential side streets that will be worked on this year that are in or around Warrendale. Crain's Detroit Business has more on this story here.

Paintball shooters target Warrendale

A pair of shooters armed with paintball guns have been targetting residents and business owners in the Warrendale neighborhood, according to a report from Fox 2 Detroit. The shooters are described by one victim as two Arabic speaking men, one with long black hair that is tied in a ponytail while the other has blonde hair.

The pair attack from a moving vehicle, often hitting businesses or pedestrians with paintballs. According to one victim who was shot while walking his dog on Plainview Street, the paintballs hit hard enough that he thought he was hit with real bullets at first.

Anyone with information about these shooters is asked to call the Detroit Police Department's 6th Precinct at (313) 596-5600.

Detroit church to host free Memorial Day concert

Interior of SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church (7685 Grandville) will present a free Memorial Day concert on Saturday, May 26 at 6 p.m. in the church. It will feature vocalists Gabriela Kash and Paula Steele, violinist and vocalist Stacy Mason, Frank Urbiel on the accordion as well as organists Johnny Kash and Dave Calendine.

There will be a reception and music by Dave Calendine that begin after the 4:30 p.m. Mass that day and continue until the concert starts. Everyone is invited to attend this free concert.

Monday, May 07, 2018

On changes in the Boy Scouts

Boys and girls as scouts in Thailand - Creative Commons photo from Pixabay
Last week, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they will change their name to reflect the fact that girls are now allowed to be members of the 108-year old organization. Their new name will be Scouts BSA and, quite frankly, I need to get a few things off my chest.

Ever since this happened, my social media feeds on Facebook and Twitter have been blowing up with people reacting negatively about this. I've heard referred as "snowflakes taking over the world", "trying to destroy boyhood", and a slew of disparaging remarks.

In fact, if I had a dollar for every time that I have heard or read complaints about the Boy Scouts accepting girls as members and changing their name to Scouts BSA, I would be writing this blog post from my new oceanfront villa in Tahiti as a half dozen or so Victoria's Secret supermodels feed me grapes and rubbed themselves all over me.

You're welcome for the imagery, by the way.

I should start out by mentioning that I started as Cub Scout, went on to the Webelos, and eventually became the senior patrol leader at Boy Scout Troop 525, which was based right here in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood. As a scout, I did all of the usual Boy Scout things. I also went to the national jamboree and served as a Boy Scout guide on Mackinac Island. I later left the Boy Scouts during my high school years and joined the Civil Air Patrol.

I personally don't think either the name change or allowing girls into the Boy Scouts is all that big of a deal. For those who wish to disagree with me, I would simply like to remind you of a few things:
  1. Both Scouting organizations have had a drop in membership over the years;
  2. Some girls want to do more than sell cookies;
  3. Most Scouting parents have both sons and daughters. This change is a lot more convenient for them;
  4. Explorers, Sea Scouts, and Venturers/Voyagers are all a part of the Boy Scouts of America and all have been coed since their inception; and
  5. Scouting has been coed internationally for years.
As for the repeated-so-often-that-I-want-to-vomit meme that this will lead to the Boy Scouts becoming some sort of hedonistic orgy whenever they go camping, I will simply say that most other organizations for teens are also coed. This includes band camp, Civil Air Patrol, and most of your summer camps.

I was at either summer camp or a Civil Air Patrol encampment for most summers during my teen years. As a former teenage boy, I regret to inform everyone that no matter how much I wished it had been true, youth camping was absolutely nothing like what some people imagine the new scouting program will be. I'm pretty sure, therefore, that the virtue of everyone's lovely teenage daughter is as safe in the Scouts as it is in your own home.

Heck, as I think about some of the things that used to happen in someone's basement during my high school days when their parents were right upstairs, I think there will even be less debauchery at a Scouts BSA camp than in the homes of some parents.

And there you have it - my reasons for why allowing girls into the Boy Scouts and the organization's subsequent name change is no big deal at all. It might even turn out to be a positive.

For now, though, I simply sick of hearing people complain about this and me not getting the $1 that I need from each of them to make the Victoria's Secret supermodels in Tahiti thing a reality.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Wildflower walk in Rouge Park

The Friends of Rouge Park and the Michigan Botanical Society will host a Wildflower Walk this coming Sunday, May 6. It will start at 2 p.m. at the Stone Bridge Nature Trail.

This event will highlight some of the native flowers that grow wildly inside the largest park in Detroit. It's a great chance for families to get back to nature for an afternoon.

The Stone Bridge Nature Trail is located off of Tireman inside Rouge Park. The entrance is in between W. Outer Drive and Spinoza Drive. A map to the trail is available here.

More information, as well as the ability to register for this event, is located on the group's Facebook page here.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

50 years ago today

Nancy and Frank Nemecek on their wedding day (May 3, 1968)
50 years ago today, a dashing young carpenter from the Corktown neighborhood in Detroit declared, "You know what this world needs? A loud mouth idiot who is crazy enough to try to make the world a better place."

"That sounds like a good idea," a beautiful young bookkeeper from the nearby suburb of Redford agreed. "But do you think one will be enough?"

"You're right! There should be four of them - each an improvement on the one who came before."

It was then that a wise priest overheard them and interrupted this couple by saying, "By the power vested in me by the State of Michigan and the Holy Roman Catholic Church, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife. Go forth and create those four loud mouth idiots."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Happy 50th wedding anniversary to my Mom and Dad from the loudest of your four loud mouth idiots.