NFL Draft by the Numbers 

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By Joshua Long, Data Program Director

The NFL Draft was years in the making and took thousands of hours in preparation. In the end though, by all accounts, the NFL draft in Downtown Detroit was a smashing success and the data support this conclusion.  Accolades and compliments came in from across the country, including the NFL.

According to the NFL, there were 775,000 visitors to the NFL Draft and surrounding events related to the draft over the three-day event. This staggering number broke previous records as the most-attended Draft in NFL history. The total visitors don’t tell the whole story or show the full scope and reach of the Draft and its impact on Detroit, the region and the state.

The NFL has access to different sources of data for determining the total number of visitors than does the DDP. The NFL uses counts from the OnePass app and point-of-entry sensors, which count people when they enter the official Draft footprint or official events. The DDP, on the other hand, used smartphone location tracking data to estimate the total number of visitors. The DDP data does have a blindspot, though- it is not able to track Canadian citizens. While the NFL data may include people who left the venue and came back. Recognizing these differences, the DDP estimate of 675,000 visits largely concurs with the NFL’s estimated totals and also indicate record numbers.

Let’s look at how these visitors affected Downtown Detroit.  

Before the Draft, the DDP Datascape team identified all the restaurants/bars/lounges that served alcohol, using liquor licenses from the state of Michigan. Our reasoning was that most people that visited a Downtown Detroit business to watch the Draft with others, would do so at a business that served alcohol (bars, restaurants and clubs). These venues saw 30,000 patrons during the three days of festivities. That represents about a four-fold increase compared to a typical Thursday and double a typical Friday or Saturday night in Downtown Detroit. Though some venues did better than others, the NFL Draft was a boon to Downtown bars overall.  

Downtown hotels also did quite well. For the full month of April, occupancy in hotels within the Downtown Detroit BIZ was up 10% year over year. The average daily rate for a room Downtown in April was $251.42, an increase of 20.3% compared to April 2023. Total revenue for all the Downtown hotels was up $6 million, or 40% compared with April 2023. During the actual nights of the Draft (April 24-26), Downtown hotels were 85-92% full according to Visit Detroit.  

April Downtown Hotel Occupancy 
2020  2021  2022  2023  2024 
15.1  27.9  48.1  47.7  54.2 
Source: STR, a CoStar Global Company, compiled by the Downtown Detroit Partnership. June 2024. 

The Downtown Detroit Partnership had activations in four of the Downtown parks it manages in addition to Campus Martius Park, which was transformed into Draft central. Activations in these parks included 90 food trucks, 135 local businesses, 37 artists and performers and ten 20-foot televisions so no one would miss a minute of the excitement. Grand Circus Park alone had three times the number of visitors during the Draft than during a Tigers Opening Day party.  

While most visitors (73%) were from the six-county metro area, the event drew visitors far and wide. There were large contingents from Chicago, Manhattan, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dayton, Cincinnati and more. The average distance traveled was more than 82 miles. This would equate to 182,000 day-visits from people who most likely would not have been here, spending time and money in Downtown Detroit. This is important because it shows that the Draft was not simply attracting Metro Detroit consumers that would have otherwise been spending money elsewhere within the region, but a far larger audience of individuals in the region and beyond. 

Top 30 Origin Cities Outside Michigan 

  Origin City  Day-Visits    Origin City  Day-Visits    Origin City  Day-Visits 
Toledo, OH           5,561   11  Atlanta, GA                576   21  Lima, OH                393  
Chicago, IL           3,214   12  Lakewood, OH                508   22  Naperville, IL                393  
Columbus, OH           1,464   13  Dayton, OH                506   23  New Orleans, LA                380  
Cleveland, OH           1,396   14  Sylvania, OH                501   24  Fort Wayne, IN                378  
New York (Manhattan), NY           1,375   15  Austin, TX                473   25  Evanston, IL                373  
Indianapolis, IN           1,015   16  Lemoyne, OH                471   26  Holland, OH                355  
Pittsburgh, PA               751   17  Rochester, NY                468   27  Springfield, IL                338  
Cincinnati, OH               691   18  Brooklyn, NY                414   28  Washington, DC                329  
Maumee, OH               600   19  Akron, OH                399   29  Philadelphia, PA                325  
10  Bowling Green, OH               598   20  Naples, FL                397   30  Houston, TX  320 
Source: Placer.ai, compiled by the Downtown Detroit Partnership. June 2024. 

In addition to all the visitors, and perhaps even more important, the extensive television coverage highlighted picturesque views of the city, showing a national/international audience the beauty and vibrancy of Detroit. On Thursday night, more than 34 million viewers across all platforms engaged in some portion of the Draft coverage, including the repetitive panoramic camera shots of the people, parks, architecture, and icons of our city. That number of viewers is about 1/10th of the population of the United States. If only a fraction of these viewers makes a trip to Detroit, the impact will be felt for years in terms of increased revenue in sales and hotel taxes, additional Downtown jobs and increased support for our cultural institutions. While locals already knew Downtown Detroit was beautiful, the event showed our vibrant community off to people in the rest of the country, who may now have revised their outdated perceptions and expectations. 

If you were one of the thousands of visitors to Detroit during the Draft, or have been Downtown recently for another reason, we want to hear from you. Please take our Downtown Detroit Perceptions Survey and help shape the DDP’s future programming.  

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