Detroit and the region have done a great job of hosting international events in recent years, from the 2004 Ryder Cup to the 2008 PGA Championship, both at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township.
In between, there was the 2005 All-Star Game at Comerica Park, the 2006 Super Bowl at Ford Field (Roger Penske and his team raised the bar on how all future Super Bowls are measured), the Red Bull Air Races last June, the return of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, and numerous other sporting and entertainment extravaganzas. While the air races will likely return next summer to the Detroit River, there are few major events on our docket in the foreseeable future.
That’s a major concern. Considering events like the upcoming NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball championship, set for April 4-6 at Ford Field, pump millions of new dollars into the region, it’s time to get busy lining up additional competitions. While the NCAA recently passed on bringing the Final Four here a second time, we should apply for the next opportunity without hesitation.
Certainly, another Super Bowl is in order, and there’s been some discussion of hosting another U.S. Open at Oakland Hills, but nothing definitive to date. Other events like the World Series, NBA Championship, and the Stanley Cup finals are totally predicated on winning teams, as evidenced by the Detroit Red Wings’ recent victory run. The Wings are certainly poised for another long playoff run, as are the Pistons, but nothing is etched in stone. And we can only hope that the Tigers can return to their winning ways.
Working closer with our international neighbor to the north is another opportunity we should mine further. As the Red Bull Air Races proved, both Detroit and Windsor benefit when a major event comes our way. Perhaps the greatest single event our respective regions could host is the Summer Olympics. We made a strong bid for the 1968 Games but ultimately lost out to Mexico City. But if we could pull it off — the resources and venues are largely in place — it would be the first truly international competition in the history of the Games.
We must also be vigilant in improving our infrastructure. That means the planned renovation and expansion of Cobo Center should continue. Joe Louis Arena may get a makeover, as well, or a replacement altogether. An expanded Cobo will offer other benefits, including the enhancement of the annual North American International Auto Show, as well as the opportunity to draw larger conferences and gatherings.
Another area of improvement is our attitude. Too often we look to highlight the negative instead of accentuating the positive. Outsiders are often surprised by the breadth of our offerings and the spirit of our people, but it sends the wrong message when we point fingers or pit one group against another.
That’s not to say the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau isn’t doing a great job; rather, everyone has a stake in promoting and highlighting our region. We need all the new dollars and jobs we can find. Standing pat is not an option.