Apr 30, 2024 - News

Detroit leaders' top takeaways on the NFL Draft's impact

A view of the draft audience looking out of the draft stage. Huge masses of people with buildings in the background.

A view of the first round of the NFL Draft downtown Thursday. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

City officials believe the reputational impact of the NFL Draft, which broke all-time attendance records, will benefit the city for years to come.

Why it matters: Local government and business leaders who organized the draft said at a press conference Monday that they are confident the draft has reset the city's formerly negative reputation as it works to redefine itself.

What they're saying: "I feel like we are a 10-year, overnight success," Mayor Mike Duggan said Monday, alluding to when the city went through bankruptcy and he became mayor.

  • "The credit really belongs to the people who live in this city. Every single story you saw, they talked about the warmth and graciousness of Detroiters, and how welcoming this city was."

State of play: Organizers expect the economic impact of the three-day blowout far to surpass initial projections of $150 million-$175 million, Claude Molinari, co-chair of the local draft organizing committee, said at the press event.

  • The draft was likely the region's best hotel revenue week in at least 130 years.
  • Economic impact details won't be known until an analysis is completed in June.

Here are four major takeaways from draft organizers:

Image success: As Duggan wanted, the draft showed off a positive image of Detroit to its 775,000 attendees and to 34 million nationwide TV viewers on Thursday, the first night of the draft.

  • In a speech Monday, Duggan pointed to "rave reviews" of the event and glowing coverage of the city in national news.
  • The city shared a positive narrative with national media outlets before the draft.

Lasting impact? It will be hard to quantify precisely how the draft changes Detroit. A one-off event doesn't erase poverty or an affordable housing crisis. But Molinari said successfully hosting the draft is a "stepping stone" for procuring more impactful events. Many more organizations will want to be part of the city's energy now.

  • "That's going to be the real measure, is over the next three or four years, do we see the kind of acceleration, people moving here and businesses expanding here. That was the goal," Duggan said.
The business owner speaks at a podium.
Ahmad Nassar of Detroit 75 Kitchen speaks Monday at the press conference about the NFL Draft. Photo: Courtesy of the city of Detroit via Flickr

Small-business participation: Local businesses were clamoring to get involved with the draft. There were more than 20 local restaurants set up in the draft area, plus 90 food trucks and 135 small-business vendors throughout parks outside the event footprint.

  • Ahmad Nassar of Detroit 75 Kitchen, who also spoke at the press event, said his business served more than 15,000 meals during the draft at its food truck in Southwest, its Hart Plaza pop-up and through catering.
  • Chef Omar Mitchell of Table No. 2 in Greektown said the experience has been "remarkable," but the city also needs people to "come down to Detroit, walk around, enjoy. It's a safe place. It's a beautiful place, and it's a great place to be."
  • But some restaurants outside downtown, like in Corktown, said they didn't see big crowds, per the Free Press.

No big safety issues: "We wanted to make sure we were present, and that it wasn't over-policed, but that you couldn't go too far without seeing the police," Chief James White told the media Monday.

  • White "couldn't be prouder" of how the event went, and said "nothing major" occurred.
  • From Thursday to Saturday in the draft footprint downtown, two juveniles were detained for fighting and two adults were arrested.
  • At one point, some people broke into the event through the gates, but they were removed, per White.

What's next: Expect all downtown streets to reopen from their draft closures by May 7.

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