Detroit pins its hopes on 2019 championship bid

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dave Beachnau has felt the same nervous anxiousness he’ll feel next week plenty of times.

It’s part of the territory when your job is creating and bringing world-class sporting events to Metro Detroit, something he’s been successful at during his time as executive director of the Detroit Sports Commission.

Beachnau waited to hear Detroit’s name called for the 2009 NCAA Final Four, and did the same when Detroit hosted the 2010 Frozen Four. He’s also watched over three AAU Junior Olympics as well as the 2007 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

So when the College Football Playoff national championship sites for 2018-20 are announced Wednesday, Beachnau will be on pins and needles.

“Excited and nervous and anxious and all those things that I guess you go through when you wait for decisions to be made,” Beachnau said. “And we’re gonna hear it the same time everyone else is. There’s no advance notice.”

It will be the end of a months-long process that included a site visit from committee members in July. It was then the playing surface inside Ford Field was painted to replicate the one Oregon and Ohio State played on during the inaugural game in January in Dallas.

And headed into the announcement, Beachnau believes his team has put Detroit in position to host college football’s marquee event.

“I feel good,” he said. “I think we’ve done everything that we can to put Detroit in the best position possible. Like any process like this we have great competition. Every city that we’re against in 2019 are great destinations and have hosted similar events.

“So you never know how things are gonna shake out especially when a committee is voting and it’s in someone else’s hands. But I feel like we’ve done everything we can to put our best foot forward and put us in the best position possible.”

Detroit is competing with Bay Area (Santa Clara, Calif.), Charlotte, N.C., Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio for the 2019 game. Several of the cities are vying for the 2018 and 2020 games as well.

“Our biggest challenge is probably the fact it’s in January, during the time when the North American International Auto Show is in town,” Beachnau said. “That’s primarily why we’ve targeted 2019 because there is a day conflict with 2018 and ’20. So to have hotel availability and some of the other spaces that we need, 2019 fit for us.

“You always like to put yourself in the best position by having multiple years available, but I think if there is a drawback it’s the fact we’re focused on that one year.”

There’s no doubt, however, Detroit is prepared to host an event of this magnitude. In addition to the NCAA basketball and hockey tournaments, Ford Field hosted the 2006 Super Bowl, and the 2005 All-Star Game was played at Comerica Park.

The addition of the new Red Wings arena, to be completed in the summer of 2017, adds to the draw of the Motor City.

“We’re gonna be able to utilize our assets that our region has to offer,” Beachnau said. “I think with the new arena district there is an opportunity to do some things. Obviously Comerica Park is adjacent to Ford Field which will lend itself perfectly for the major tailgate party they have pregame, so I think everyone has stepped forward.”

The impact for the region should be significant. Beachnau said reports had Dallas seeing an extra $300 million infused into the local economy after the inaugural game.

And, the potential weather issues aren’t a problem as the committee has made it clear it is open to playing in northern cities.

“My take on it is, this is the national championship game and first and foremost that’s why these teams are coming to Detroit,” Beachnau said. “They’ll have their warm-weather bowl experience in the semifinal game and the focus (here) should be on the national championship game.”

Making a bid

Cities in the running to host the national championship from 2018-20:

2018: Atlanta, Houston, Bay Area*, South Florida

2019: Bay Area*, Houston, Charlotte, N.C., New Orleans, Detroit, San Antonio

2020: Bay Area*, Minnesota, Charlotte, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio

* Santa Clara, Calif.