City Guide 2024: Detroit, You’ve Been Drafted!

How the NFL’s second biggest event came to Motown and what to expect during the festivities.
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Illustration by Ryan Olbrysh

The largest and most impactful event in Detroit since the city hosted Super Bowl XL in 2006 is taking place this month, when the National Football League draft is held downtown April 25-27.

With free admission, hundreds of thousands are expected to gather where numerous activities and extensive live entertainment will take up 2 million square feet of space from Campus Martius Park (the location of the main draft stage) to Hart Plaza — including Cadillac Square and the Monroe Street Midway area.

Over the three days, another estimated 60 million-plus from around the world will be tuned in to ABC, ESPN, and the NFL Network to watch the nation’s top collegiate football players be selected while Detroit is also showcased with plenty of drone shots and features.

Hosting one of the league’s most prestigious and popular events, second only to the Super Bowl, is a defining moment to cap off the resurgence of the Detroit Lions and the ongoing renaissance in the heart of the city.

Since 2015, when the NFL decided to take the draft out of New York and on the road to Chicago (twice); Philadelphia; Dallas; Nashville, Tennessee; Cleveland; Las Vegas; and Kansas City, Missouri, it has gained even greater popularity.

After two previous unsuccessful bids, it took a persistent and impressive team effort by numerous leaders within a public-private partnership to bring the draft to the Motor City. Officials predict it will likely bring more than 300,000 visitors to the region, resulting in an economic impact of at least $150 million.

According to organizers, those figures may likely be greater given that rabid football fans are expected to come from Canada and six relatively close NFL cities — Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Indianapolis; and Pittsburgh — all within a 4.5-hour drive or less.

The Detroit Lions, Visit Detroit, the Detroit Sports Commission, the city of Detroit, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, and numerous other civic organizations and corporations put forth a tremendous team effort to make it happen,” says Claude Molinari, the CEO and president of Visit Detroit (the convention and visitor bureau for Detroit, Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties) which led the successful bid to host the NFL Draft.

He reminded the NFL that from 2004 to 2010, “Detroit had successfully hosted the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the Frozen Four, and the Ryder Cup — and that since that time, the area has added hundreds of more hotel rooms and new developments. Dan Gilbert and Rocket Mortgage also used their influence as a major sponsor of the NFL.”

At Visit Detroit’s annual partnership meeting in January, which highlighted the upcoming draft, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked by NBC’s Sunday Night Football play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico what Detroit should do to make it a success.

“The No. 1 thing is to do it your way, Detroit-style,” Goodell said. “Our draft reaches 60 to 70 million people over three days, and everyone is going to see the places and people that make this community special. I’m sure it will be a great success.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan sees the NFL draft as a unique opportunity to show off the city.

“It’s going to be Detroit’s chance to reintroduce itself to the world, and I think people are going to be very pleasantly surprised,” he says. “Many from outside the city have the media images from during the bankruptcy a decade ago cemented in their minds. They don’t know about our incredible riverfront, the nearly 200 parks we’ve renovated, the amount of blight that has been removed, or the amount of construction and new buildings being added to our skyline.”

The benefits attributed to hosting the draft present special prospects beyond the windfall that is expected for the regional hotel and restaurant industries.

Kai Bowman, the chief operating officer of the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, which boasts 1,300-plus members, also spoke at the Visit Detroit meeting.

“For the small-business community, the NFL draft is a tremendous opportunity, and we are working with the organizing committee, the Lions, and the city to make sure that our members are certified and prepared,” Bowman said.

The Detroit Sports Commission and Visit Detroit, with the support of local donors and the NFL, announced that Beyond Basics and Project Play: Southeast Michigan, two metro-Detroit-based nonprofits, will equally split a $1 million grant to support youth literacy and active play.

Dennis Merlo, 71, of Northville, a Lions fan of 64 years, is looking forward to attending the NFL draft festivities.

“Considering the season the Lions just had with all the national exposure that went with it, I think the fans will show up en masse and will be on fire,” Merlo says. “A lot of the country was behind the Lions during the season, and I think there will be a carry-over effect. It will be very exciting and likely one of the liveliest drafts the NFL has ever had.”

Schedule of Events for the 2024 Draft

The 2024 NFL Draft will be held in and around Hart Plaza, Cadillac Square, Campus Martius, and several other activated public spaces outside of the main footprint. // Map courtesy of Visit Detroit
Thursday, April 25
  • 2024 NFL Draft Experience
    Time: Noon-10 p.m.
    Location: Campus Martius Park/Hart Plaza
  • 2024 NFL Draft Day 1 (Round 1)
    Time: 8 p.m.
    Location: Campus Martius Park/ Hart Plaza
Friday, April 26
  • 2024 NFL Draft Experience
    Time: Noon-10 p.m.
    Location: Campus Martius Park/Hart Plaza
  • 2024 NFL Draft Day 2 (Rounds 2-3)
    Time: 7 p.m.
    Location: Campus Martius Park/ Hart Plaza
Saturday, April 27
  • 2024 NFL Draft Experience
    Time: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
    Location: Campus Martius Park/Hart Plaza
  • 2024 NFL Draft Day 3 (Rounds 4-7)
    Time: Noon
    Location: Campus Martius Park/ Hart Plaza

To stay up to date on the 2024 NFL draft event details and activities, go to the Visit Detroit website, visitdetroit.com/2024nfldraft, or download the NFL OnePass app.


This story is one piece of our 2024 City Guide, which appeared in the April 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. For the rest, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on April 5.