SB Nation Small Market Roundtable: Big, Shiny New Stadiums

The second week of the SB Nation Small Market Roundtable is upon us, meaning that Pride of Detroit has the honor of hosting topic #2. Last week things got underway over at Big Cat Country, the Jacksonville blog here at SBN, to discuss relocation. That really didn't have much bearing on Detroit as there is absolutely no chance the Lions will really ever move somewhere else. This week's topic does relate back to the Lions as it is discussing new stadiums in the NFL. Ford Field opened in 2002 and today is still considered one of the finest in the league.

Basically, the point of this roundtable is to gather the blogs that represent the teams in small markets to discuss some of the hot topics relating back to the aforementioned teams. Some of you probably would say that the Lions aren't a small market team, and I'd even have to agree with you to an extent. However, though the market they play in is quite large, the fanbase is dwindling due to the recent lack of success. Either way, the topic today is new stadiums, and we all can talk about that here in Detroit.

When Ford Field opened in 2002, it was seen as something great for the Lions and something even better for the city of Detroit. The Pontiac Silverdome, the former home of the Lions, had lots of tradition filled in it from the days it opened in the 70's to the days of Barry Sanders in the 90's. It was a great place to play, but a new stadium was really needed.

It was time to move the Lions back to Detroit. Plans would be drawn up right around the same time the Tigers decided to build Comerica Park, meaning the two would open within a couple of years of each other to help the revitalization of downtown Detroit. How did this process get started? Take a look at this timeline.

August 20, 1996: Lions announce plans to build new domed stadium in downtown Detroit.

November 5, 1996: Voters in Wayne County overwhelmingly approve a referendum by the largest margin of victory in NFL stadium election history (68-32 percent) which will allow the Detroit Lions to build a domed stadium in downtown Detroit adjacent to a new baseball park for the Detroit Tigers.

That vote on November 5 was huge. Without public support, building a brand new stadium gets even tougher than before. Luckily for Detroit, the vast majority of people were on board with the proposal, meaning that plans could go forward.

In late 1999, ground was broken and the final plans to build Ford Field were announced. During the actual construction, the Lions got big news regarding Super Bowl XL. On November 1, 2000, NFL owners unanimously voted that Detroit would host SB XL, giving a buzz to an already historic project. Ford Field would be the host, and as we saw when the Steelers took home the title in Detroit last year, the overall experience was great.

Construction finally was completed and Ford Field opened in August 2002. Since then, it has been an architectural masterpiece. Whether it be the outside or inside appearance, both rank near the top of the NFL. The incorporation of the Hudson's Warehouse also is such an interesting aspect of Ford Field. The building was on the land where it was built, but part of the warehouse was and is actually used as the luxury boxes, press box, and restaurants on one side of the stadium.

Aside from the actual building of the stadium, one of the main things to focus on is the actual economic impact it has on the Lions and the city of Detroit. For the Lions specifically, it provides a brand new stadium that is top-notch and will serve as this team's home for the next however many years. Nearly every week, despite the team being so bad, the seats are almost always close to being filled. Overall, the Lions have benefited greatly already from Ford Field.

Looking at it from the actual city point of view, the impact has been simply amazing. The opportunities have and will continue to be endless. As already mentioned, Super Bowl XL came to Detroit because of this stadium and was just absolutely great. On top of that, here are some other events that have or will be coming to Ford Field:

  • MAC Football Championship (Yearly)
  • Motor City Bowl (Yearly)
  • Wrestlemania 23 (April 2007)
  • Michigan High School Football Championships (Yearly)
  • 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Regional Semifinal and Final
  • 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four
  • 2010 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Frozen Four

As you can see, Detroit is getting a huge economic boost from all of the sporting events that have and will be coming to Ford Field each year. At a time like this where the entire city's economy is so bad, anything like this helps greatly.

In the near future, the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys are going to open new stadiums of their own. Many other teams are looking to do the same, but haven't yet got past the preliminary stages of funding and approval and things like that. The road to finding a big, shiny new home is tough. Some teams, such as Detroit, are lucky enough to have the support to be able to play in a new stadium. Others are left hoping that someday they can do the same.

Eventually, team after team after team will build a new stadium in the NFL as it will be a necessity someday. There will be the stadiums like Soldier Field and Lambeau Field that are modernized via renovations and don't need to be replaced, but they are a select few. The reality of it is that in today's world, stadiums like this are a need for NFL teams. It doesn't reach that team alone as the economic impact is felt throughout the surrounding areas. Just look at Dallas already. They will host a Super Bowl because of their new stadium. The Cotton Bowl is moving there, and probably many other big events will make their way through. Same with Indianapolis' new Lucas Oil Stadium. That will bring opportunities down the road.

I've rambled on long enough, so leave your own thoughts in the comments section. Is your team trying to build a new stadium? Has it already? If so, what were your thoughts on the situation?

Stay tuned for next week's Small Market Roundtable and until then, thanks for reading and Go Lions.

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