Commission sinks boat race proposal

May 16, 2017

An old flyer advertises the Grand Traverse Bay Offshore Classic, which originated in the 1980s.

A proposed high-speed boat race in Traverse City is dead in the water. The city commission rejected plans for the “Grand Traverse Bay Offshore Classic” last night.

Commissioners said they were concerned about noise, possible environmental damage and congestion at the city marina. They said they had heard mostly negative input from the community.

Commissioner Tim Werner said the city may only have room for two big events – the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival.

“What would a high-impact event be that we are comfortable with?" asked Werner. "Is there such a thing, or do we really just want to have two? Do we just be honest with ourselves and say, ‘we’ve got these two, we’re going with them, and maybe the next generation will decide to add another one, but we’re not ready for it.’”

Race organizer Matt Soper promised to mitigate the issues raised with a well-run event. Soper said a vocal minority of Traverse City residents had opposed the race without fully understanding it.

“The naysayers that fight and want to keep our town suppressed and maybe don’t understand the economic impacts ... ," said Soper. "They’re okay with the beer and kayak, beer and yoga thing, and encourage people to go drink and do whatever.”

The three-day race would have taken place in August of 2018. Organizers could come back in six months with a new proposal.