College Football Playoff group tours Detroit for possible 2019 game
Detroit — The construction on Woodward and other parts of downtown is seen by most people as a hindrance.
For Dave Beachnau, executive director of the Detroit Sports Commission, it's a sign of progress. And it could be a harbinger of bigger things for the city as Detroit bids for major sporting events.
The effort began in earnest in May, when the DSC submitted a proposal to host the College Football Playoff national title game at Ford Field in January 2019. It continued this week, as Beachnau hosted the search committee Monday and Tuesday.
"When you can see cranes in air over the arena location and the M-1 Rail literally under construction, it's real and it's happening and it makes it come to life," Beachnau said.
Detroit is among six cities — the others are Charlotte, N.C.; Houston; New Orleans; San Antonio; and Santa Clara, Calif. — hoping to host the event.
The host committee toured the city and various venues with the playoff committee. Afterward, the committee viewed a presentation on the history of Detroit.
What surprised the playoff committee most was the continued development of Detroit. The landscape will be bolstered by the completion of the new Red Wings arena in 2017.
"It was eye-opening to see how many buildings and other things are being built up," said Michael Kelly, chief operating officer of the College Football Playoff.
Detroit was the sixth in a nine-city tour for the playoff committee, which is looking for sites for 2018 and 2019.
Having hosted Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in 2005, the Super Bowl in 2006 and college basketball's Final Four in 2009, Detroit has seen its share of major sporting events, but it has been out of the mix for a few years.
"We know the types of events that have been held here before from a collegiate standpoint: MAC championships, the Final Four, and the bowl game at Ford Field," Kelly said. "There is good collegiate history here in the marketplace and we take a number of factors into effect as our leadership ultimately makes a decision in the months to come."
Beachnau estimated the price tag for hosting the game could be $13 million — a figure that would be raised by the host committee — but the total economic impact for Detroit could be exceed $300 million, as it did for Dallas, which hosted the inaugural championship game in January.
The tour didn't include the newly renovated Cobo Center, which is reserved for the North American International Auto Show. But the new Red Wings arena, along with Comerica Park and West Riverfront and the Fox Theater area would be sufficient.
"What really opened their eyes was the changes that have taken place in the city and all the development plans that are on the board and the shovels in the ground — M-1 Rail, District Detroit, everything that Dan Gilbert's group is involved in," Beachnau said. "They bring a vibrancy and masses back into the city. That's what really surprised them the most."