Nov 28, 2023 - Sports

Detroit has big hopes for the 2024 NFL Draft

An NFL Draft update press conference yesterday at Ford Field. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

A full 149 days out from the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan is promising football fans something entirely different from recent drafts.

Why it matters: Duggan and a local draft organizing coalition want to show off the city to hundreds of thousands of visitors while still making the event inclusive for local residents and businesses, officials said Monday.

  • The Detroit Sports Commission, Visit Detroit, the city and others gave updates during a press conference at Ford Field for the April 25-27 event that will be held around Campus Martius and Hart Plaza.
  • There are lots of promises, pressure and hopes for a transformative impact from the event, which drew 312,000 people to Kansas City in April and more than 50 million viewers on TV.
  • But some details are still missing, like the event's exact footprint and the specifics of a neighborhood engagement program at rec centers before and during the event.

What he's saying: "When NFL fans come here, we're going to treat them to a different experience than they've had the last two years," said Duggan, whose administration has been on a cleanup and beautification campaign leading up to the draft. "I was at the drafts in Las Vegas and Kansas City. They were very well run, but they were held in parks far away from their central business district."

  • "We are trying something that's far more challenging," he added: integrating it into downtown.
  • Detroit had some practice doing that this summer, bringing the Grand Prix back downtown from Belle Isle, but that event was smaller, drawing around 150,000 throughout the weekend.

Plus, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist went so far as to say it would "be the beginning of the reimagination of how people understand and experience the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan."

Context: Though not with the same strategies, an improvement investment campaign also led up to the 2006 Super Bowl here under former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who wanted to "reintroduce" Detroit to the world.

Between the lines: The Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance and other business groups are helping local businesses apply for contracts with the NFL for things like catering, event setup and audio-visual services.

  • The commission and visitors' bureau also announced a $1 million donation for local nonprofits supporting youth literacy and active play — an effort the commission said was created through momentum from the draft.
  • The total local budget for the draft is $10 million, including from the visitors' bureau, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Rocket Mortgage, General Motors and others.

Of note: The NFL Draft Experience, a football theme park, will take over Hart Plaza for the weekend with games, exhibits, performances and autographs available. This and many other draft events will be free.

  • Though Campus Martius can't fit enough people to watch the draft, organizers plan to set up audio and screens elsewhere, like Beacon Park and Capitol Park, to extend the experience across downtown.

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