When the Detroit Lions relocated from the Pontiac Silverdome to their state of the art facility in downtown Detroit, it was bittersweet for Detroiters. Although they had moved into one of the premiere stadium facilities in the National Football League, they were leaving behind a great tradition of parking lot tailgating that existed at the old Silverdome with its acres of blacktop. Being situated downtown meant finding parking within the numerous privately-owned parking lots that were dotted throughout the city and many of which would not allow tailgating under any circumstances. So faced with this dilemma, the innovation and perseverance of the Motor City shined through, as tailgating hot spots sprang up throughout Detroit, offering a slice of what it used to be like at the Silverdome. The best of these, if you're looking for old-fashioned, Detroit-style tailgating, is still the Eastern Market. The Eastern Market is located a short walk from Ford Field. It serves as a local produce and plant market for Detroiters on the weekends, but when the Lions are in town, it's transformed into Detroit Lions Tailgater Central. Its parking lots accommodate up to 750 spaces attracting close to 3000 fans for each home game. Tickets are $30 for tailgate parking or $10 in lots where tailgating's not allowed. Shuttle service is available to and from Ford Field before kickoff for a $5.00 fee, which covers your round trip transportation, and several of the area restaurants also provide free shuttle service with purchase. So there are lots of options for getting down to the stadium. Walking to Ford Field isn't too terrible either as it's only a ten minute walk to the stadium gates.
If you do end up in the parking lots or parking decks near Ford Field, there are plenty of entertainment options there as well. Many folks will go over to the Hockeytown Cafe located on Woodward Avenue for pregame libations or to any of the local bars in the city. Typically a hockey hangout (as Detroit is Hockeytown, USA), the Hockeytown Café has great food, a live DJ, and an open porch area to facilitate gameday gatherings. Another option might be to check out the "Detroit Lions Pre-Game Tailgate" which is located on Brush Street next to the stadium. From 11AM until kickoff, this stadium sponsored event, which is free to the public, offers all types of activities for Lions fans to kickoff their NFL Sunday. The Lions flagship radio station, 97.1FM The Ticket, does a live broadcast of their show, as great tailgate food and Lions merchandise are available for fans to purchase. The Detroit Lions drumline is also on hand with Lions mascot, Roary, to offer Lions fans a great tailgating atmosphere with plenty of photo opportunities. For the kids there's facepainting, autographs, and the incredibly popular "Lions inflatables", where kids can spent time bouncing through the "Lions Head", "The Drive", "Quarterback Challenge", and Belle Tire's "Tireman" ... all definitely worth checking out.
Ford Field itself is an impressive facility that's one of the finest in the National Football League. It's truly a modern-era sports complex that was built with an environmentally-friendly, "green" mindset, taking into consideration the use of recyclable and renewable construction materials. It's a massive complex housing state of the art practice facilities, administrative offices, and an impressive array of luxury boxes. For the fans, the site lines in Ford Field are exceptional as the luxury suites are stacked in multiple levels on the visitor's side, allowing for lower placement of the upper deck on the home team side. Detroit's commercial past is also represented in the incorporation of the historical Hudson's warehouse as part of the stadium design. Similarly, the enclosure of the intersection of Adams and Beaubien Streets has allowed for a traditionally styled set of shops and restaurants that serve as concessions. Apart from reusing most of the warehouse structure to support the offices, suite level, restaurants and lounge areas, much of the facility was built to make economical use of power and water as well. The use of natural light throughout the stadium is refreshing and even the floors throughout the facility were made from renewable bamboo rather than hardwoods. It's apparent that the Fords have made the right choices in building a facility worthy of a championship caliber team, now if only their organization could deliver one. Eventually, the Detroit Lions will get it right, but until then, I'll continue to admire one of the NFL's best facilities for watching professional football. If you're interested in more details on Ford Field including my adventures on the Quest for 31, please feel free to check out my website at, http://www.nflfootballstadiums.com/FordField.htm.
- Hans Steiniger for TicketCity