Lions playoff run gives economic boost to Detroit

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Tyler Murawski

Lions fans celebrate outside of Ford Field after the team's divisional win on Jan. 21.

DETROIT, Mich.—Lions fans across Michigan celebrated as the NFL team made their historic run to the NFC title game. This run came after a playoff win drought lasting 32 years. The drought brought on questions of “curses,” which were directed not only to Lions fans but also the city of Detroit. The team and fandom’s new-found hope led to season tickets Ford Field being sold out for the first time since its opening in 2002. The rush for Lions’ game tickets brought new revenue to the franchise and Detroit.

Heavily Impacted by the 2008 recession and loss of automobile manufacturing, the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013, becoming the largest city in American history to ever do so. Since then, the city has been looked at as an economic failure, described as a “shrinking city” by many news outlets. However, many of the city’s economic indicators, such as GDP, employment rates and wages and salary per worker have steadily risen since late 2020, according to the city’s latest Economics Indicators Report. The Lions’ playoff run has only added to the excitement and growth around the city.

“The city felt different when the Lions were in town,” said Detroit resident Amelia Plones. “There was a different buzz. Bars were packed and the streets were filled with lions fans.”

As the Lions continued to win in the 2023 season, single-game ticket prices exploded to $600 each. By the end of the regular season, the Lions’ record was 12-5.

According to the Detroit Lions ticketing office, a total of 745,930 fans had attended home games at Ford Field during the regular season. This success allowed the Lions to host two home playoff games, which brought sales growth to the city and surrounding area.

Each playoff game pumped an estimated $20 million into the city of Detroit according to Chris Moyer, senior director of communications and public affairs at Visit Detroit. 

“Yes definitely, a ton of Lions fans made their way to our bar,” said Matt Scott, an employee at Bookies Bar and Grille located only a half mile from Ford Field, when asked if the Lions affected business. “We have a loyal crowd since we have been around for twenty years but the home playoff games brought in a ton of people. Detroit has always been an event-driven city.” 

Nemo’s Bar, a classic Detroit spot near Old Tiger Stadium, has been owned by the same family since 1965. They, too, felt the economic impact the Lions brought on the city. 

“The Lions brought us amazing energy, love and camaraderie,” said Tara Garity, a manager at Nemo’s Bar. “I cannot express how much of a shot in the arm for this city it was. People were hugging, it brought people together, I am so proud I was a part of that.”

This high number of people coming to the city for the Lions gave small businesses and bars opportunities to capitalize financially. Garity also stated that Nemo’s customized their hours to accommodate Lions games, opening early for tailgaters, and ran shuttles all day for fans in the city. 

Sadly, the historic run would end after two playoff wins with a defeat in The NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. However, the impact that a football team had on a city with so much pride will not end anytime soon. 

Tyler Murawski

Lions fans set up their tailgate area outside of Ford Field before the final playoff game of the season on Jan. 28.

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