Wilmington Grand Prix generates big bucks for Delaware economy

The Wilmington Grand Prix is expected to add nearly one million dollars to the local economy.  

Thousands of spectators are expected to descend on the city this weekend to watch hundreds of cyclists race through the streets of downtown Wilmington as part of the annual Grand Prix.  Organizers are hoping the weather forecast will translate into a big turnout.  “It’s going to be a beautiful weekend,” says Carrie Gray, managing director for the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation.

The festivities start at 4 p.m. Friday with the Monkey Hill Time Trial in Brandywine Park where 300 riders will race against the clock on the cobblestones of Monkey Hill.  Racing starts in downtown Wilmington on Saturday at 9 a.m. with races in different divisions for men and women leading up to the 35 mile Grand Prix race at 3:45 p.m.  Last year, all racing fields were full with 450 riders.  This year’s fields are near capacity.

Add up all the money spent by competitors and spectators on things like hotels and restaurants in Wilmington, the Wilmington-area economy could see a million dollar boost.  Last year’s event brought in an estimated $970,000.  “That impact number is in the city mostly, but it does reach out into the county some in terms of hotel rooms and things like that,” says Gray.  “Obviously, we’re really thrilled with that number and hoping that it will grow again this year.” 

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She says the impact numbers don’t include the “good will” generated by the event among the biking community and spectators.  “The feedback that we get, the emails that we get after the event are really just amazing in terms of the positive comments that people have.”

This year, organizers have added a “Gran Fondo” (Italian for “Big Ride”) on Sunday.  The event is a 62-mile ride that will allow amateur cyclists to ride alongside professional riders.  In keeping with the “Big Ride” theme, more than 400 riders are expected to take part.  “It will be a very challenging course through chateau country and out to all of the historic property tourism sites like Winterthur, and Mt. Cuba, and the Delaware Art Museum, Hagley.”  Cycling is usually not permitted at a number of those sites like Winterthur. “We’ve gotten special permission for this group to be able to do that.”  

For riders looking for less of a challenge than the 62-mile Gran Fondo, the second annual Governor’s Ride will take riders on a 15-mile course through some of those historic sites including Hagley Musuem and Library, Winterthur Museum, and Delaware Museum of Natural History.  As its name suggests, Governor Markell will lead this ride that will start and end at the Delaware Art Museum, with a finish line party in the museum’s sculpture garden.

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