Detroit Lions’ Playoff Run Spurs Economic Surge in the City

Detroit’s rising football fortunes are not just a win on the field but a major boost for the city’s image and economy. The Detroit Lions’ current success is offering a unique spotlight on the city, enticing football fans nationwide to explore what Detroit has to offer, both in person and through their television screens.

Chris Moyer, Visit Detroit’s Senior Director of Communications, shared with Crain’s the undeniable impact of the team’s success: “It’s unquestionably easier to sell the city as a great place to visit, work, play and invest. When people get to see how beautiful Detroit is, the city can market itself. The (Jan. 14 Wild Card game) was the highest-rated TV program since the Super Bowl. That’s millions and millions of eyeballs on the city of Detroit. The people here saw how great it is, and NBC showed beautiful images of our vibrant, dynamic city.”

Adding to this sentiment, Matt Friedman, co-owner of Tanner Friedman, a Farmington Hills-based communications firm, highlighted the positive imagery presented during the playoff games, noting, “If nothing else a huge audience, by today’s standards, got to see that Detroit has a riverfront, Detroit has tall buildings and a skating rink, side-by-side stadiums downtown and a renovated train station about to open. There’s only upside in that.”

The Lions’ popularity surge is not just anecdotal. According to social media data compiled by online betting site BetOnline and cited in a Detroit Metro Times report, the Lions have become the top pick among U.S. fans to win the Super Bowl after the Wild Card round. Moyer believes these images have made outsiders fall in love with both the city and the Lions.

The city is also experiencing a significant economic uplift due to the Lions’ games. Anderson Economic Group, a Lansing-based consulting firm, estimates more than $52.2 million in economic activity for the city due to the NFC divisional round contest, including $31.6 million in direct economic impact from civic, tourism, and merchandise spending. Tyler Theile, COO of AEG, told Crain’s, “That economic activity does not stop at the dollars spent just for that event.”

The excitement is evident in ticket sales too. Ellen Trudell, Lions Corporate Communications Manager, told Crain’s that tickets for the upcoming Lions/Tampa Bay Buccaneers game are the most expensive for a divisional round in history, averaging nearly $1,200 on the resale market. Moreover, season ticket renewals for the next season are coming in at a high rate, despite a significant price increase.

Following a momentous victory in their first playoff game at Ford Field since its 2002 opening, and their first in three decades, the Detroit Lions are now poised for their next challenge—a highly anticipated playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight. The initial playoff triumph has not only heightened the excitement among fans but has also sparked a significant economic upswing for local businesses.

In the wake of the recent playoff win against the Los Angeles Rams, which featured former Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, fan enthusiasm is at an all-time high. This fervor was evident in the ticket sales for that game, which boasted the highest get-in ticket price for any Wild Card Round game at $479, as reported by TicketSmarter. This is a stark contrast to other games, such as the Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, where tickets started at $117.

The Lions are committed to creating an unforgettable fan experience, introducing new elements at Ford Field like pyrotechnics and streamers for every Lions score. Fans are also treated to pom poms and LED wristbands that sync with light shows, adding to the electrifying atmosphere. This home playoff journey not only enhances the team’s earnings but also substantially benefits stadium vendors, local businesses, and ticket brokers.

David Cowan, the Downtown Detroit Partnership’s Chief Public Spaces Officer, sees a significant positive impact on the surrounding businesses: “This is going to have a massive impact on downtown businesses. A lot of businesses have reported that they’ve seen double their normal sales for regular season games in a lot of instances. I can’t overstate how important of a driver this is. The people who want to be a part of that downtown energy, the tailgating, they’ll be in and around a lot of our bars, restaurants and shops. That’s going to give (downtown Detroit) the great level of energy we like to see,” he explained, as cited by Crain’s.

An analysis by Visit Detroit showed that hotel occupancy in the city increases by about 10% on weekends when the Lions play at home. Chris Moyer, a spokesperson for Visit Detroit, told Crain’s that he expects the economic impact to be substantial, especially with the added excitement of a second playoff game against the Buccaneers.

“The buzz generated by the Lions’ playoff run, especially now as they face the Buccaneers, is a major boost this weekend. Restaurants, hotels, and many businesses in the city of Detroit and the metro region will see a significant increase in economic activity,” Moyer stated.

Cowan anticipates that the energy downtown will be even more remarkable tonight. “It’s an incredible moment not only for the team but for the city and its downtown. The excitement from the first playoff win and the anticipation for tonight’s game against the Buccaneers is creating the perfect storm of enthusiasm,” Cowan remarked.

Local businesses like Fanatic U, a retail store near Ford Field, have already seen the benefits of the Lions’ playoff success. General Manager Jen Symansic told Crain’s about the surge in business, leading to increased operating hours and a significant boost in Lions merchandise sales. “The excitement is great for the team and the city,” Symansic said.

With the Lions’ inventory orders increased by 60%-80% over previous seasons, and vendors assisting with restocking, the economic ripple effect of the Lions’ playoff journey is clearly evident. As Detroit gears up for tonight’s game against the Buccaneers, the city is not only celebrating its football team’s success but also embracing the economic and communal resurgence it has brought along.

The ripple effect of the Lions’ success is felt in the hospitality industry as well. The Atheneum Suite Hotel and Conference Center in Greektown, for instance, is experiencing a 35%-40% increase in reservations on Sundays compared to January 2023, as per hotel executive Athina Papas. She noted, “Since the loss of the auto show, the month of January has been one of the most challenging months for the hospitality industry… These games have helped restaurants and hotels tremendously.”

Papas also sees this as a pivotal moment for Detroit, stating, “This is a tremendous opportunity for the city to continue to shine and show the rest of the country how amazing Detroit is.”

Indeed, the Lions’ triumphs on the field are translating into a victory lap for Detroit, showcasing the city’s allure and economic resilience.


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