Bike Time expansion concerns for local businesses

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MUSKEGON, Mich. -- The Bike Time motorcycle rally in downtown Muskegon is a popular, family friendly event every summer. Local businesses, especially along Western Avenue, look forward to the sea of visitors who spend money at the local hotels, bars and restaurants.

Organizers said last year's four-day event in mid-July pumped $30 million into the local economy. It attracted more than 100,000 people to the lake shore. Many of those visitors are bikers who show off their rides on what's known as "Steel Horse Alley." It's a bit like the big Sturgis and Daytona bike rallies, but in our own backyard.

"Part of the problem we discovered is that as downtown Muskegon continues to grow, there's less and less space available to do downtown Bike Time as we've done it only," Bike Time board member Tim Lipan said.

"That's a great thing for Muskegon. As downtown grows everybody benefits," Lipan added.

Lipan said the event has gotten so big, the board needed to find more room. They found space about 10 minutes away at the former site of the horse track in Fruitport at the junction of I-96 and US-31. The location will now serve as the hub for everything, from concerts to vendors and even motocross.

"One of the things we discovered is, people still like bike time, but there wasn't an impression that it was getting stale," Lipan explained.

He added, "They wanted to see more entertainment, more musical acts, more parts and accessories for bikes, more food options, more stunt shows and things like that."

The Bike Time board unveiled the plans last fall and showed the new venue in a rendering, calling the move an 'expansion'. Some downtown business owners who've enjoyed the extra traffic say the BikeTime board has met with them. However, they don't have a lot of confidence in the changes.

"We left the meeting a little surprised and weren't sure that 'expansion' was the most appropriate term," Ron Madison, owner of Racquets Downtown Grill said. Without the permits being requested to shut down Western Avenue for Steel Horse Alley, they don't see the Bike Time board embracing downtown like it used to.

"There just wasn't a lot of clarity," Madison said.

"One of the things we knew for sure is, most of the folks downtown do want that street closed. They want it one way. They want it for motorcycles only, and we concur as well," Lipan said of the meeting.

Madison said, "So many businesses down here have planned their summer and budget and schedule around this event that has brought so much to this community."

If Bike Time isn't willing to close the street for motorcycle parking, the business community might be. They're already talking about.

"I would only be concerned if we were not allowed to do the things down here that created the festive environment that people have come to enjoy," Madison said.

He said, "I think, if done the right way, that this event in Fruitport in cooperation with downtown will only be better for both of us."

Charging an entry fee will also be different. Organizers said the pricing isn't set in stone, but a weekend pass will cost about $40. The day pass rate has not been set yet.

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25 comments

  • Scott

    Well, there goes Bike Time. Sounds like the same board members that ran everything else into the ground. I will not go to the Fruitport site and pay $40.00

  • Corey Anne Ambrose

    I think that we should contact our Local ABBATE Chapter, ask them to use their insurance policy to give to the city and start a collection to close down Western Ave So we can keep Steel Horse Alley going. Our Generation of Muskegon Big Reds know how to put together a party on a budget. Who’s with me?????

  • marjorie

    Good job you greedy money mongers..I will be staying home now. My money will go else where . Keep bike time original and where it started! Who wants to go to a dilapidated run down race track field? No thanks.

  • Mary Hampton

    Muskegon has screwed up every good thing it ever had going for it. Let’s look back…the Air Fair. It fell apart because of greed. They wouldn’t allow families to bring g in their own coolers fir food and beverage. ..no, they outlawed the coolers, overcharged for food and drink, then allowed “sponsor” tents to take away the best viewing g and seating. To top it off, organizers timed it so it ran at the same time as Muskegon Summer Celebration, or whatever it was called then. Do you remember the Sheryl Crow concert? Yep, up against another headliner downtown. How could anyone be so stupid? We have 3 good months of summer here, yet organizers tend to offer all events at the same time. Now, let’s jump forward a few years: Rothbury music fest, or what they call “Electric Forest” now….again, run concurrent with Coast West concerts. So….we finally get a good thing going with BikeFest, which involves some drinking by adults, and now you want bikers driving across town to other events at another site? Are you crazy?! And now, you want to charge for families who want to just take in the site of all those motorcycles. What is the matter with you? I will not be attending…the poor planning has once again undermined a good thing here due to greed.

  • Diane Anderson

    Why do you have to mess with a good thing. My dad always said, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Charge people $40 to attend the event. Part of the reason people are drawn to this thing is because it is FREE.. Make the changes and yet again, Muskegon screws up a good thing!

  • Tracy Overway

    I thought this was an expansion. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to close down the street for steel alley like they have done every year. Many large rallies aren’t localized, they are spread out in different areas. It won’t take away from everything, but give bikers more options.

  • christine

    Just a shame the city of Muskegon & Biketime couldn’t figure out a way to expand without moving OUR BIKETIME EVENT…. You’ve got a huge concert venue not used during Biketime, Hackley Park and many other areas in the Muskegon area that can be utilized for expansion. WHY, WHY, WHY, would you so this? We spend the money, lots and lots of money…Families come down and enjoy the vendors, bikes and events as well…Many people can’t afford 40$, what is wrong with you? This is Muskegon, many people don’t have jobs, and the money generated is about 40% of the local business revenue, again WTH is wrong with you????

  • Rick Swanson

    I go to bike time every year,I will not pay $40.00 to go downtown and see my buddies and look at bikes and have a few beers. I will go to a bar closer to home and hang out with my buddies and spend that $40.00 on drinks at my local bar if there is any charges at all. Just another way for the state to get there hands on my money. Steel alley better be steel alley as that’s the main attraction to me and most the riders. It’s where they take there bikes through slowly and rev there motors for the people to hear what there bikes sounds like. Mess with what you have that’s working and you will have nothing at all,trust me as an avid bike time rider…

  • Ride4me

    I’m a biker and You’re going to find a lot of bikers won’t pay the $40. Fee. They will lose $$$ on this unfortunate idea. There is already talk of boycotting the Fruitport Location. We stand for Muskegon Business’ There are huge parking lots near that they could have used. Greed takes over helping your own City. Shame on them.
    They will all lose in the end

  • tammy

    Charge a $40 fee? Some don’t have the extra money in money and they enjoy looking at the bikes,, this is getting a little greety,, and bike time needs more room, too crowded now,, old racetrack would be so much better,,, think about the travelers that come here, the people that live here, so what businesses there now would lose out but you need to expand..

  • Dave Anderson

    charge $40? are they frickin nuts? I will still go there. but I will stay downtown as I have every year. I hope they close the downtown street as they have in the past. the people will stay downtown. the money will stay downtown. I come from just over 2 hours away but there are many that come hundreds if not thousands of miles away. I am sure they wont like the change either. could this be the beginning of the end? I sure hope not