Almost everyone loves a great comeback story and, for those who do, few are more compelling than the one unfolding in Detroit as the Motor City sheds its “loser-ville” image.
After decades of decay, the city that was at Ground Zero of the auto industry collapse, then floored by a recession is getting back on its feet, a resilience reflected by its sports teams and highlighted by the Tigers’ return to the World Series.
The auto industry and the beaten-down city it calls home may still be in the midst of a painful recovery, but Detroit is to feel the full impact of a robust Tiger economy this weekend as the Motor City gets set to host Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Fall Classic.
The Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that three games would pour US$26 million into a city that can use every cent.
“We expect it [World Series] to have an impact of upwards of US$8 million a game … it is an economic engine for us,” Detroit Sports Commission executive director Dave Beachnau said.
“One of the reasons we formed the Detroit Sports Commission was we see the value and importance of hosting events of that magnitude, not only because of the economic benefits they can provide, but also by casting a positive image on the region,” he added. “We are changing the perception of Detroit.”
Once a bustling city that was home to nearly 2 million people, Detroit now has fewer than 800,000 residents, with many having fled to the suburbs to escape the high crime rates and to search for jobs, leaving behind the decaying shell of a once great US metropolis.
While the Tigers’ return to the World Series will do more to boost sagging spirits and civic pride than turn around the local economy, the Major League Baseball team, the National Hockey League’s Red Wings and the National Football League’s Lions are doing their part to breathe life into a downtown that was left for dead.
Comerica Park and Ford Field, located across the street from each other, are two world-class facilities providing an anchor for the redevelopment of the downtown core.
Amid the acres of empty lots and boarded-up, crumbling buildings, new businesses have begun to sprout up.
Once a foreboding “no-go” zone, people now happily linger before and after games at a growing number of pubs and restaurants, instead of racing to cars and back to the suburbs.
Despite the tough times and one of the highest unemployment rates in the US, Tigers fans have been among the Major League’s most loyal and this year they have topped 3 million in attendance for the third time in six seasons.
Detroit fans stood by the Lions when they stumbled to an 0-16 season and celebrated with the Red Wings, who won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and reached the final in 2009, giving the city something to cheer about just as the car industry was starting to implode.
The Tigers’ appearance in the World Series has helped dull the impact of the NHL lockout and a sluggish start to the season by the Lions, who are to contribute to the party this weekend when they host the Seattle Seahawks today.
“The economy in Michigan and the Detroit region has made more progress than just about any other place in the nation,” Detroit Regional Chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah said.
“The entrepreneurs are coming back, the auto industry is doing better and there is investment in the city. Good things are happening and the national media is recognizing that,” she added.
“The sports teams have kind of been the icing on the cake,” Baruah said.