Metro Detroit braces for influx of visitors during potentially record-setting summer

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Capital News Service

LANSING – With several major events coming to Detroit this year, it’s shaping up to be a cruel summer for people searching for parking or hotel rooms in the city.

But the good news is, it could lead to an economic impact that extends out into surrounding areas like Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties, and possibly farther. 

This summer, Ford Field alone will host multiple events with international appeal, including three of pop music’s biggest stars – Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Beyonce. Also on tap are the WWE’s second-biggest event of the year in SummerSlam and two United States Football League teams – all before the Lions take the field for a season that many fans are more optimistic about than in recent memory.

“Without a doubt, I feel comfortable saying that this is our biggest upcoming summer yet,” said Ellen Trudell, the corporate communications manager for the Detroit Lions.

Ford Field will host its most concerts in a single calendar year since opening, Trudell said. That’s thanks in part to several artists performing multiple shows at the venue. Taylor Swift will be the first two-night concert Ford Field has hosted when she takes the stage for The Eras Tour June 9-10.

That same weekend, and a few blocks away, the Tigers have a game at Comerica Park. GloRilla & The Girls will perform at the Fox Theatre and “SIX: The Musical” will be at the Fisher Theatre.

And Motor City Pride at the same time will bring more than 50,000 people that weekend to the LGBTQ+ pride street festival in Hart Plaza.

 Trudell said that could mean significant traffic delays.

Getting in and out of Ford Field can be challenging. Unlike other football stadiums, it is in the city’s downtown.

With a capacity of 70,000 at Ford Field, traffic can be difficult as it is. But adding in other events means visitors will have to plan ahead, Trudell said.

“The best plan you can have is to not arrive thinking you’ll be able to get in the doors right at show time,” she said.

“It’s a good problem to have. Detroit is very busy, and we love to see it. But we also want people to know to arrive early.” 

Similarly, when SummerSlam returns to Detroit for the first time in 30 years, Madonna will be playing at the Little Caesars Arena, just down the road, while the Tigers have a game directly across the street from Ford Field.

If you don’t want to get body-slammed by traffic, guests should park farther away and use public transportation to reach the venues, said Christopher Moyer, the senior director of communications for Visit Detroit, the city’s tourism promotion organization.

That could mean parking on the north end of Detroit and taking the QLine down, or parking on the west end of downtown and using the People Mover, Moyer said.

“There are options for people to get around town,” Moyer said. “There is no doubt that parking is going to be expensive and at a premium.”

Detroit may lack the hotel capacity to host visitors who come from all over the country for events of that scale.

 “The truth is, we will continue to need more to meet the growing demand for meetings, conventions and fantastic events like SummerSlam,” Moyer said.

“The good news is, in the long term, we have plans to make that happen.”

The economic benefits of hosting major events this year will extend into parts of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties and perhaps further, he said. 

Here’s why: SummerSlam sold more than 32,000 tickets in its first day of sales, breaking a WWE one-day sales record.

Demand for The Eras Tour was so large that Ticketmaster canceled general sales after more than 2 million tickets were sold nationwide in a presale that set the record for the most tickets ever sold by an artist in a single day despite website crashes.

And the future is bright. SummerSlam and next year’s NFL Draft demonstrates that the city is ready to host the biggest ticket attractions – like WrestleMania or the Super Bowl, Trudell said. 

“We’re always looking for that next step,” Trudell said. “Detroit has hosted them before, and we’ve shown that we could pull them off successfully.”

Part of submitting a pitch to host major events is noting how much hotel space could be set aside to accommodate them, said David Lorenz, the vice president of Travel Michigan and a member of the board of Visit Detroit.

“Detroit’s really getting to the point where they’re about at the right number,” Lorenz said, citing boutique hotels, like the Element Detroit, casinos and projects to restore historic buildings, like the Book Tower.

While hotel capacity should be adequate for this year’s events with support from the surrounding areas, Moyer said it could pose a challenge to attracting future larger events.

Future events requiring more downtown hotel capacity means aggressively planning and building for the future, Moyer said. 

“Detroit is an ambitious city, and we’re always looking to host the best events and show the incredible recovery and renaissance that has been happening,” he said.

“There’s so much vibrancy. We think that any major sporting event, any major conference, should be considering Detroit because of our remarkable history and the great story we have going forward.”

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