M1 Concourse race track breaks ground on new event center and restaurant
Pontiac – M1 Concourse planted the seeds Tuesday to make Pontiac a major auto events destination.
The private car club attracted a who's-who of Oakland County dignitaries for the ground-breaking of its event center and restaurant. Scheduled to open in September 2021 ahead of M1 Concourse's inaugural American Festival of Speed auto exposition, the 28,500-square-foot center will contain a ballroom, large events space and two-story restaurant aimed at hosting major events as well as daily patrons. It will offer public access to the facility and its race track.
“We believe this is going to be the new hub of all things automotive,” said M1 CEO Jordan Zoltoff in an interview. “We like to say we're going to be the Dream Cruise every day.”
He was flanked at the ceremony by Pontiac Mayor Dierdre Waterman, Oakland County Executive David Coulter and Oakland Sheriff Mike Bouchard.
"There are a lot of firsts here in Pontiac right now," said Waterman, ticking off recent business commitments by Amazon and United Shore mortgage company. "And Pontiac is taking its rightful place as the home of the largest sports enthusiast facility in the world."
Located at the southeast corner of M1’s 87-acre campus, the event center will have views of the facility’s centerpiece 1.5-mile Champion Motor Speedway. The center will have separate, public entrances distinct from the garages that house M1’s private club members.
M1 is located at the corner of Woodward and South Boulevard, just north of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital.
The model is similar to high-profile private golf clubs like Oakland Hills and Detroit Golf Club that have played host to major golf tournaments. M1 swaps out the golf course for a race track. The event center is part of the facility’s long-term plan to be a private auto playground as well as a catalyst for change in Pontiac.
"We are breaking ground on something we have dreamed about for four years," said M1 Concourse member Tom McDonald who drives a Porsche Speedster. He was one of a number of M1 members attending the ground-breaking who were enthusiastic about the facility's larger commitment to making Pontiac shine.
"M1 is all about the Pontiac community. Pontiac is the next place besides Detroit that is natural for rehabilitation," said Tim Hartge, CEO of the Pontiac Motorsports Exposition that will run the Festival of Speed. "Woodward Avenue connects them both. There is no reason not to see an a resurgence for both Detroit and Pontiac."
Zlotoff said that his development team visited other private auto clubs around the country for ideas including Autobahn outside Chicago, Monticello west of New York City, and Spring Mountain in Nevada.
“The big difference between M1 and other motorsports facilities is we’re so close to not only the core metropolitan area, but also all the Motor City automotive activity that occurs here,” said Zlotoff. “We're really catering to corporate clientele, whether it's the (big auto companies) or tier one suppliers to do marketing events and VIP experiences.”
Zlotoff emphasized in particular the advantages of offering fine dining in the major metro area.
“We can have on-site dining facility that probably isn't viable at other tracks just because they don't have enough people coming through,” he continued. “We believe this is going to be a really desirable place to hang out and socialize.”
The two-story restaurant will be open seven days a week, feature indoor and outdoor patio seating, two full-service bars, and an upper level deck overlooking Champion Motor Speedway’s sweeping Turn 10B. A sealed cigar lounge is planned. M1 plans to announce a restaurant partner soon.
The event center’s grand opening will dovetail with Hartge’s inaugural American Festival of Speed next September. Modeled on the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England, M1’s auto-palooza hopes to rival the Detroit Auto Show as Michigan’s premier enthusiast expo with historic cars, point-to-point races, even new car reveals.
M1, located on a former General Motors manufacturing facility, has already attracted national attention.
"My friend Jay Leno called and wanted to film an episode of 'Jay Leno's Garage' in Detroit. I told to come to M1 Concourse. It's cool," said Bouchard.
In addition to Leno's show, M1 has played host to public events including cars and coffee car gatherings, open track days, and Roadkill Nights drag races presented by Dodge (the latter was canceled this year due to coronavirus concerns).
Construction of the auto club’s final phase-four garages is already underway just west of the Event Center’s location. Upon its completion next spring, phase four will round out the 253 private garage/condos that are home to M1’s enthusiasts and their toys.
A map released with the event center site plan includes a go-kart track behind the event center.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.