The NFL draft has become a massive, money-making, multimedia event. What can the Detroit Lions present to help Motown become a viable host city in the near future?
The throng of delirious fans representing every NFL team on a rain-soaked Nashville thoroughfare was quite a sight last month. It has also sparked more urgency from the Detroit Lions on how they could bring the event to Michigan.
In 2015, the NFL started moving the draft to a different host city each year. This, after it was held every year between 1965-2014 at various hotels and theaters in New York City. It made sense for all those years; it’s New York.
However, while holding the draft in some of Gotham’s most iconic theaters became the standard, it was also somewhat limiting. Radio City Music Hall was the host venue for the draft between 2006 and 2014. Scheduling conflicts and limited seating capacity inside the theater, though, prompted the NFL to look for new host cities.
2015 & 2016’s versions in Chicago saw the introduction of what would become a pivotal element in subsequent drafts as well. An outdoor “draft town” in Grant Park allowed fans to feel close to the selection proceedings inside the Auditorium Theater across the street, while remaining outside.
That innovation influenced the unique format in 2017 in Philadelphia. A quarter of a million people attended that year’s event, centered on the iconic “Rocky Steps” of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was an attendance record at the time, and the unique atmosphere of that event would set the standard for any following bids from other U.S. cities.
After Dallas (technically Arlington, TX) hosted the 2018 version inside massive AT&T Stadium, the outdoor motif was revisited for this year’s rendition in Nashville, TN. Despite the wet conditions, downtown Music City was packed with NFL enthusiasts and set a new record with an estimated 600,000 attendees. If Detroit is awarded an NFL draft in the coming years, could they offer a comparable experience?
The Lions are certainly interested. Speaking to the Lions official website, team president Rod Wood shared the following regarding the Detroit’s pursuit of securing the annual event:
"“I think what we learned, is we need to do something, if we’re going to do it here, that’s really iconically Detroit. We have a few ideas how we may do that. We’re in the running a couple years from now, I think, to still have an opportunity to bring the draft here.”"
There are a few venues that could help make the experience iconically Detroit, all of them in the downtown core. Hart Plaza, Fox Theater and of course Ford Field would be the likely first choices for hosting the event. There are obstacles, however.
Hart Plaza is a picturesque, outdoor, riverside space, and has hosted countless concerts and festivals over the years. Its official capacity though is only 40,000 people, and would thus require adjacent streets and blocks to be shut down during the multi-day draft. Could the Lions sell city officials on that proposal?
Fox Theater offers an enclosed space only, and though Comerica Park’s main parking lots lie across the street for associated fan activities, it would be a slightly detached version compared to previous years.
Ford Field could also present a viable option, and could help eclipse the stadium’s record event attendance of 80,103. It would still likely pale in comparison to Dallas/Arlington’s indoor attendance of over 100,000 in 2018.
The Lions have shown legitimate intrigue in hosting the NFL draft at some point in the coming years, but hurdles exist. Other issues include downtown luxury hotel availability, weather, and Detroit’s up-and-down national reputation. Those concerns could make it a long shot.
So while other teams and cities may have stronger cases for winning the right to host the draft, one thing is clear: the Lions are interested, and will make a strong push for the opportunity. It could be a landmark event for both the city and the franchise, and rest assured that it would be a uniquely Detroit experience should it happen.
How would you convince the NFL to bring the draft to Detroit? What do you think would be the best venue for the event? Let us know in the comments section below.