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Detroit‘s Real Super Bowl Battle

George Foster - February 2nd, 2006
Did you ever notice everyone has an opinion of the city of Detroit - even if they have never traveled to Michigan? Whether you hate, fear, feel sorry for or wish you lived in Motown - the name of that city usually triggers some emotional response.
Well, it didn’t take long for the grousing to begin after the announcement of Detroit’s Ford Field as the site for the 2006 Super Bowl. “Why Detroit?” No one wants to go there.” A Super bowl in the Murder Capital?” And on and on.
As a result of such skepticism, this weekend’s Super Bowl game at Ford Field will include a scorecard that ultimately affects all Michigan residents: how well does Detroit rate as a city?
My score would be high - I miss Detroit. Of course it has been 25 years since I lived there, but it was a time I’ll never forget. I loved the multi-ethnicity of the city neighborhoods, picnics and rugby on Belle Isle, evenings of gorgeous music on the back lawn at Meadowbrook, walking to games at Cobo Hall and Tiger Stadium on a lark, and the vitality of youth at the downtown clubs. I even miss the grittiness of the city streets.
The Super Bowl XL committee has tried to capture the city’s positive aspects in consuming $5 million and 4 years preparing for professional football’s championship game. The last time Detroit hosted the Super Bowl (1982 in Pontiac’s Silver Dome to be precise), one of the biggest snowstorms in history paralyzed the area into submission. Critics said, “See... we told you not to hold football’s sacred event in a northern industrial city.”
This time the city’s officials were prepared. Rather than fighting the snow and cold, a winter carnival will run from Thursday to Sunday, Super Bowl week. According to the Detroit Free Press, the 2006 Motown Winter Blast will be topped by a 26-foot-high snow slide run that could extend 225 feet long. A 14-block area of downtown is set aside for other activities such as dog sledding, snow shoeing, ice sculpting, skating, and snowmobiling. Many headliner bands including Clint Black and Smash Mouth will also perform.
I’ve always wondered how it would feel mushing down Woodward Avenue. There is just one problem: little snow has fallen this winter in Detroit for the 350,000 fans that are expected for the winter festivities. The National Weather Service reports that 2005-2006 is the 3rd warmest winter on record in the area since 1870. The temperatures have been ten degrees warmer than average for January. Can’t Detroit ever catch a break?
When the Super Bowl site was awarded to Detroit 6 years ago, the auto industry and overall economy were humming. About that time a secret arrangement with the National Football League reportedly promised another Super Bowl to Detroit if they built a new downtown stadium for the Detroit Lions franchise (Ford Field).
Now, on the eve of Super Bowl XL, the Michigan economy is shaky and the auto industry is a disaster. The timing of news that Ford Motor is eliminating 30,000 jobs and shutting down at least 10 plants couldn’t have been worse for Detroit’s image. What will all of these unemployed workers do? Where will they go? The average Ford worker makes $50,000 - how will it affect our economy?
It isn’t just Ford workers that are suffering. Detroit’s Big Three auto companies have slashed about 100,000 jobs in the United States since 2000. The state of Michigan itself has now lost net jobs in each of the last six years. That hasn’t happened since before World War II.
Governor Granholm recently stated that diversity of industry in Michigan was the solution to our economic problems. Our response should be, “Amen, but we have been hearing politicians push for diversity in this state for 30 years.” Somehow, it never gets done.
Despite the setbacks, there has been a big effort for civic renewal in Detroit. Baseball’s Comerica Park and the Fox Theater get headlines, but 63 new businesses have been launched in the area recently. Also, over $100 million in private and public funding has financed dozens of improvement projects in Detroit.
Though I don’t have answers for Michigan’s economic woes, we in Northern Michigan can hope that Mother Nature brings us snow and the city of Detroit is a winner in this year’s Super Bowl. It would be a nice beginning for the recovery of Detroit and the great state of Michigan.





 
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