The Story of the NFL Draft in Detroit

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We now know the Draft in Detroit was a huge success. We shattered the attendance record. Many are predicting we will shatter the economic impact of previous drafts. The OnePass app alone hit a record of #1 downloaded app on the App Store all three days of the Draft.

Given the event was such a success on so many levels that it bears review.

What many don’t know is that the Draft plan was based on three principles: make it safe, expand opportunities for the community, and showcase the city.

The Downtown Detroit Partnership was part of a cadre of public and private sector organizations, nonprofits, individual leaders, and others that made our proposal to the NFL. Together, we executed on our vision. We knew that hosting the Draft in the heart of our Downtown would make a statement.

We made much more than a statement. We wrote a story. 

Make it safe.

“Our officers did an amazing job of keeping the city safe. Our strategy is that no one would go 20 yards without seeing an officer,” said Detroit Police Chief James White at the press conference Monday after the Draft.

The first day tested our every nerve as the number of attendees grew and grew. Right away, there were 275,000 people in the Draft footprint. The 2500 officers on site maintained their calm. Their positive and reassuring presence was felt at every corner.

After three days, there were just two arrests. Two. It was all hands-on deck, and it worked. Our long-outdated perception as an unsafe city is forever changing.

Expand opportunities for the community.

The Downtown Detroit Partnership’s Draft Day in the D did precisely what we intended. We extended the Draft’s impact across four parks and three full city blocks of Woodward. The DPP provided opportunities for local talent and businesses. The results speak for themselves:

  • We engaged over 500 businesses and provided resources/information to get them game time ready.
  • We deployed 90 food trucks and featured 135 small businesses, most of which were Detroit-owned.
  • The Draft and Draft Day in the D engaged 37 performers and artist activations. 
  • We set up ten 20-foot viewing screens, so no one would miss a minute of action.
  • We saw four times the number of visitors in Grand Circus Park each of the three days than a traditional Tiger’s Opening Day. This further drove sales to existing businesses.
  • More than 100 of our Downtown Detroit Business Improvement Zone Ambassadors were on site over the weekend, along with 160 volunteer shifts, keeping the city clean, safe, and welcoming. 

The DDP team worked countless hours planning and executing Draft Day in the Day, which will serve as a model for future host cities. 

We also worked to expand free public Wi-Fi across the parks and public spaces and partnered on lighting enhancements with the Detroit People Mover. The DDP, with support from the MEDC and DEGC made infrastructure, signage and park improvements that will benefit business and residents long after the excitement simmers down, and that better prepare us for future events large and small.

The stories of local businesses exemplify the impact we knew hosting the NFL Draft would have.

“[On Thursday], we sold out of two days’ worth of food,” Cooking with Que Owner Quiana Broden, who was in Cadillac Square, told Crain’s Detroit Business. “People just kept coming. Organizers told us Thursday was going to be the slow day. This is Detroit, though. We party differently from everywhere else.” 

Showcase the city. 

For 20 years, the award-winning Campus Martius Park has served as a gathering space for our community. It was no surprise when the planners chose Campus Martius Park for center stage, and it shone like the diamond it is, as did all the DDP’s parks and public spaces. It’s fair to say cities can’t attract events like the Draft without public spaces, and we have some of the world’s best right here. 

We showed our pride for the Lions and our city. On Thursday, one broadcaster commented there was more Honolulu Blue here than in Honolulu. 

The Draft was a success because the vibrancy of Detroit was on the world stage this past weekend. 

We showed the best of Detroit – our culture, hospitality, Downtown, people, and passion. This was the ultimate team effort and a great win for the city.

“The real measure of that success will come over the next three or four years, and that’s with people moving here and businesses expanding into the city,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “We made an impression that is going to last for a long time. Detroiters should be proud of the way they welcomed America into the city.”

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