Two years, Detroit. You’ve got two years to get your act together as a city and people. Because the NFL Draft is coming to Motown. And while the Detroit Lions have fumbled draft picks in the past, Detroit, can’t afford to fumble the bag as a host city in 2024.
Why? Because, according to NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, it’s a $200 million bag.
That’s right. $200 million! It’s the projected windfall that Goodell expects the 2024 NFL Draft will bring to the Detroit economy. That’s nothing but positive news for a city rebuilding itself. $200 million over a week could change so much for many businesses and entrepreneurs. Before that happens, though, there is one question out there that needs an answer.
Is Detroit, as a city and its people, truly ready for an NFL Draft?
Well, let’s dissect that.
Detroit is no stranger to hosting large scale sporting events. In 2006, the “Motor City” hosted Super Bowl XL at Ford Field. Around 68,000+ people attended the game, with an extra 100,000 in the downtown area. The following year, it hosted World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Wrestlemania 23. That event had over 80,000 attendees. And fewer people traveled for that than the previous year’s Super Bowl.
Besides an NCAA Men’s basketball “Final Four”, it doesn’t get much bigger than those two events.
Nonetheless, the mentioned events Detroit has already hosted cater to a select crowd.
While the Super Bowl is a huge event, fanbases from only two teams, primarily, make that trip. And with WWE’s Wrestlemania, while it’s a significant event, the pro wrestling fanbase is significantly smaller than the NFL. Then you have to factor in ticket prices to both events. Because they are not cheap. Hell, the recent average price for a Super Bowl ticket was around $6,100. Basically, for those events, you need some “coins” in the bank.
The NFL Draft isn’t that. It’s the ultimate football fan experience. It caters to everyone, regardless of economic class.
Based off the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, the NFL expects over 600,000 people to migrate to Detroit over a three-day span for the 2024 draft. That’s roughly, give, or take, 20,000 of Detroit’s population. The city of Detroit, in my lifetime, has never seen this type of traffic that’s heading its way.
Detroit Mayor, Mike Duggan, made it clear after Thursday’s kickoff celebration: he’s looking for Detroit to be a host city for more sporting events to come. For that to happen, Detroiters will need to be on their best behavior.
Having previously worked as a nightlife photographer in Detroit, I can speak on the behavior that needs to cease from what I’ve witnessed.
There can’t be any of the shenanigans the city used to have with the downtown fireworks display. There can’t be be any brawls in Greektown on a Friday night when nightclubs let out. And most importantly, Detroit will need to be a welcoming and accommodating city.
Yes, like most major cities, Detroit has its good and bad parts. Unfortunately, on a national scale, Detroit gets a bad rap. Its ugly parts are unfairly highlighted. At times, it feels like the national media dogs Detroit more than other cities. Hell, that perception even follows me when I travel. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked if I’ve been shot or shot at because I’m from here.
Even when you look at outside coverage of Detroit, its treated like it’s a third-world country. As if a beatdown is waiting for you immediately upon arrival. It’s a trash perception.
The city and its people will need to go above and beyond to shake that image.
See, the NFL Draft in 2024 won’t be just a Detroit thing. It won’t be “Detroit Vs. Everybody.”
It will be “Detroit AND Everybody.”
Fanbases from the other 31 NFL teams will be in the 313. And yes, that even includes division rivals. So Detroit better get ready, because in 741 days from now, there will be more eyes on Motown than ever before. If the city gets a bad rap or anything unfortunate happens, it will be a black eye that will be hard to remove. I attended the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville. And it was a beautiful experience, especially for NFL fans. After witnessing how that city pulled it off, I knew Detroit would be capable of doing so.
Detroit can’t miss this chance to blow because this opportunity only comes once in a lifetime.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.