Sports fans fuel downtown’s revival
Detroit – On a busier-than-usual Saturday in downtown Detroit, fans flocked to multiple games and shows reviving businesses.
The lineup for Saturday included the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase with Michigan vs. Detroit Mercy and Oakland vs. Michigan State at Little Caesars Arena, just before the Detroit Lions play the Chicago Bears at Ford Field and the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas show at the Fox Theatre.
The basketball doubleheader was originally scheduled for the same time as the Lions-Bears game, a overlapping conflict college teams have had recently.
“I am disappointed for our fans,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told The Detroit News on Sept. 13, speaking of the tip time. “The reason we are going down there is to be a part of a great city, arena and event. “The Lions game was part of that event.”
ESPN listened and moved up the times so they wouldn’t tear fans away from the football game taking place at the same time a few blocks away.
The trifecta lead thousands to the city and fans came from the Upper Peninsula and Chicago to cheer on their teams.
“We’re from Marquette and everyone there is a Packer fan. It’s sad, but we’re die-hard Lions fans and we’re going to be here through the thick and thin,” said Scott Arbelius, who flew to Detroit for the game with his 13-year-old nephew Ben Wolfe.
Five friends and relatives from Grand Rapids planned a weekend trip downtown months in advance. Besides hitting the Lions game, they stayed in Greektown, went to the Masonic Temple for a Griz concert on Friday, hit the casinos, Hard Rock Cafe and Campus Martius.
“We spent at least $300 each on the trip so far between driving, tickets and probably more with food and the hotel,” said Austin Krupp, 23.
Barbra and Tom Baker from Ontario stayed at the Foundation Hotel downtown after watching the Red Wings win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.
“We went to the holiday market and got a one-of-a-kind Michigan shirt for today’s game and a pint glass for our son,” said Barbra, 50. “We went to the Coney Island, Wright and Co. ... it’s always great to come to the D.”
Tom Baker, 57, said they spent more than $1,500 on their two-day trip in the city and it was “well worth it.”
Ivy Boykin, from Detroit, said there’s a new energy that the city’s teams are helping to bring downtown.
“I’ve seen lots of fans stroll through today. It’s crowded like it was for the tree lighting,” said Boykin, whose daughter owns The Natural Market, an essential oil and candle shop in the Holiday Market. “A lot of people come from the games and we’ve gotten a lot of business on game days like this.”
Lance Sigler, general manager of Central Kitchen and the Cadillac Lodge bar, Apres Ski Central, said he knew it would be a busy day after seeing thousands of basketball fans lined up outside LCA on his drive down Woodward Avenue.
“The local fans really support the business,” he said. “We always notice on game days how many people really come down and show their support for the teams that our down here.”
Sigler said the bar sees five times more business on Saturdays like this than during the week.
Tom and Lynn Behr of Linden came with their family, some who went to the basketball games and the couple strolled the city while they waited for the Lions to start.
“We were adamant to get here today despite weather and traffic. We hit Eastern Market, our nephews are really excited to hit (Player One) arcade and skating in Campus Martius has been on my bucket list for so long because I see so many videos here,” said Lynn Behr.
Tom Behr said they had season tickets for the Tigers, but Saturday was their first trip to see the Lions in 12 years.
“We’re always hoping for a win today, we brought a football and a sharpie hoping to get it signed,” he said. “There’s good stuff happening in the city so we gotta support it.”