Feb 8, 2024 - News

Detroit's NFL Draft prep goes into overdrive

Animated illustration of a rotating line of football helmets in front of the Detroit skyline.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

After Sunday's Super Bowl, Detroit becomes the epicenter of the NFL.

Why it matters: The league and local officials are making final preparations for the city's biggest event in nearly two decades — and with it, the opportunity to showcase Detroit to a massive TV audience and hundreds of thousands of visitors.

  • A successful draft could lead to other major sporting events here, like the Big Ten football championship or the NBA All-Star Game.

What they're saying: "After the Super Bowl, from the NFL's perspective, all eyes will be on Detroit and the draft," Alexis Wiley, former chief of staff to Mayor Mike Duggan and co-chair of a local organizing committee, tells Axios.

What's happening: The draft will largely take place around Campus Martius and Hart Plaza on April 25-27. But other public spaces throughout the city, such as Michigan Central Station and Eastern Market, will also be activated with audio and visual displays so fans throughout the city can follow along.

State of play: Business and tourism groups — Visit Detroit, the Detroit Sports Commission, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Dan Gilbert's Rock Companies and others — are coordinating draft-themed events throughout the city in the coming weeks and months.

Yes, but: The all-powerful NFL, by far the largest U.S. sports league, is calling the shots. Local draft planners have been anticipating the Super Bowl's conclusion so they can capture the league's attention for final draft preparations.

  • "Come Monday, we'll give them 24 hours to relax and then be like, 'Let's get to work here,'" Visit Detroit president Claude Molinari tells Axios. "I think there's going to be a lot of perception changes [about Detroit] based on this event."

Between the lines: In many ways, 2024 is the perfect time for Detroit to host the draft.

  • The Lions are coming off their best season in 30 years, and fans will be glued to television throughout draft week.
  • Officials are also expecting plenty of fans from NFL cities within driving distance: Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Buffalo.

Of note: The draft coincides with a Tigers homestand against the Kansas City Royals.

What's next: NFL contracts with local vendors are still being finalized while league and local officials contemplate made-for-TV storylines to highlight the city's revitalization and its devoted fan base.

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