Business, News, Regional Transformation

Detroit the comeback city: Convention bureau records $200 million in direct spend in 2012, sports bring in $400M

Ok, for those of you (and there shouldn’t be many) who think Detroit is not a go to destination boy I have got news for you. For those of you who already knew Detroit is a must see place and on the comeback trail here are some great facts and figures from the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (DMCVB) and our sports teams to back it up.

We Love the D Poster

“We Love The D” poster available at

DMCVB booked business adding up to about $200 million in direct spending in the Detroit region in 2012. That’s up from $94 million in 2011. Our sports teams bring in conservatively $400 million annually. These two success stories highlighted the DMCVB recent annual meeting.

“Detroit is American’s great comeback city,” says Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the DMCVB.  “We’re a region that no longer will make excuses nor apologize for who we are. We are proud, resilient and we have an abundance of attractions and amenities to offer visitors. Our days of being kicked around are over …”

“The Tigers and our other professional sports teams can tell us a little bit about being resilient,” Alexander says. “They know how to come from behind and emerge as champions.”

As part of its annual meeting, the DMCVB had a panel of Detroit sports experts discuss the impact of sports and the economic benefit they have on our region locally and nationally. For example, last year the Sports Commission booked 39,000 room nights in the Detroit region.

In short, sports change the economics of a city and region by bringing in big dollars and millions of visitors. Winning (and interesting) sports teams and a growing, vibrant Downtown Detroit attract businesses and people, not just sports fans, but big time sports figures.

David Dombrowski, president, CEO and general manager of the Detroit Tigers, says his team no longer has to talk players into coming to Detroit. Today they want to play here, not only to be part of the Tigers and play at Comerica Park but also to be part of the city’s transformation. He says Tiger manager Jim Leyland reminds the team every year that they are playing in a hard-working city where people spend their hard-earned money to see them play so not playing your best is simply not acceptable.

“Detroit has a pride and determination I have never seen anywhere else on earth. That is how our teams play … the city will reject players not giving 100 percent,” says Greg Hammaren, senior vice president and general manager at FOX Sports Detroit.

Not only are Detroiters big fans of our teams, he says one half of Fox Sports website traffic comes from outside Michigan and many of them “are desperate to get back to Detroit.” In fact, San Diego now has Tigers clubs in many of that city’s bars.

A new Red Wings stadium will also add more investment and spending dollars to the city. Today the about 4 million people a year come to the city for to see our sports team.  That could easily grow to 5 million, says Mark Rosentraub, Bruce and Joan Bickner endowed professor of sport management at the University of Michigan’s School of Kinesiology.

In five years we will see a bustling, vibrant Woodward Avenue … “all the steps are in place to get that done,” he says. “There is a lot of investment now. Ten years from now it will not be affordable.”

Still, there is much to be done, he says. Detroit needs a good public school system and students graduating from Michigan State, U-M and Wayne State must find it attractive to come to the city.

Detroit Metro Convention and Vistors Bureau“We aren’t there today but we are close,” he says. “When we have 20,000 to 40,000 calling Downtown Detroit home we will have succeeded. We will have neighborhood where people want to live.”

The big news on the convention front is the National Medical Association coming here in 2015 with 6,200 room nights and a direct spend estimate of $2.7 million.  The Bureau is concentrating heavily on getting more medical conventions into town. “Detroit should be, and will be, home to some significant medical meetings in coming years,” says Alexander.

The medical community has invested $15 billion in Downtown Detroit over the last few years and will keep pushing to make Detroit a medical meeting destination, says Robert Riney, chair of the DMCVB and president and COO of Henry Ford Health Systems. Detroit has a strong medical history and “is not getting the media attention it deserves,” he says.

That National Medical Association convention is just one part of the DMCVB’s story.

  • The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers is booked for 2014.
  • The Service Employees International Union is booked for 2015.
  • DMCVB is working with U.S. Olympic sports organizations to identify opportunities to bring more international Olympic sporting events to the region.
  • There is an increased focus on getting more sporting collegiate events to Detroit. The Final Four and the Frozen Four were huge successes.
  • The team will focus on getting more business into Cobo Center and the Suburban Collection Showplace.

Cobo’s renovation will be completed in December 2014. The atrium was unveiled this year and the next major milestone is the completion of the 40,000 square foot ballroom and the 25,000 square feet of meeting space underneath it. That will be finished in July.

In addition, the Hyatt Place at the Suburban Collection will have an additional 9,200 square feet of meeting space and 126 guestrooms so the suburbs are covered as well.

“The headlines are positive, the economy has improved tremendously,” said Alexander. “Investors, businesses and their employees are putting stakes in Detroit. Hotel occupancy is up and the eyes of the country are on us. It is time for our comeback.”

To prove the point Gene Myers, sports editor at the Detroit Free Press, held up the “We Love the D” poster the paper created. It’s sold thousands.

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