Thursday, December 7, 2023
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All Eyes on Detroit

By Kathy Gibbons

To say Detroit has a few things on its plate would be the understatement of the decade. Hospitality and meeting industry professionals gathered earlier this year in Detroit for exactly that reason. With new events on tap—including the NFL Draft, NCAA Sweet 16 Elite (both in 2024), NCAA Final Four (2027), the Detroit Grand Prix returning to downtown Detroit, and annual blockbusters like the North American International Auto Show and the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, not to mention other one-off first-time events on the Detroit docket—they had a lot to talk about.

Panel discussion. August 17, 2023,
Moderator Carole Galle with panel discussion participants Andrea Gengler, Bethanie Fisher, Claude Molinari, Michael Montri, and Andrea Trudeau || Photo by Ryan Nosis, courtesy of Display Group

Lyn Gleasure, senior event sales manager for Rock Events and a member of the committee that organized “Big Events, Big Impact: How Upcoming Events Will Affect Our Industry” at Chroma downtown, says registration sold out almost immediately—
interest and demand was that great. The event was jointly sponsored by the National Association for Catering and Events, Detroit Event Council, Meeting Professionals International, and International Live Events Association. The approximately 150 attendees included members as well as other industry professionals.

“It was about the excitement of all the things coming back to Detroit or starting new in Detroit that we haven’t seen in the past,” Gleasure says. “We talked about the NFL Draft and what that will mean to the city, and the Grand Prix moving off Belle Isle into the streets of Detroit, which is much more inclusive of businesses and the community, and the reimagined auto show moving from January into September and what that means. And, also, the big corporate events, like the [Rock-sponsored] NF [neurofibromatosis] Gala and Rock Mortgage Classic golf tournament.”

Christopher Moyer, senior director of communications at Visit Detroit, says Detroit’s growing hotel sector can only help going forward. “Visit Detroit did a study between 2017 and 2021 where we looked at conventions that told us they would have come to Detroit but ended up not going to Detroit because we couldn’t secure them the downtown hotel room blocks.”

Today, he notes, Detroit has the fifth-highest number of hotel rooms of any U.S. city under planning and development—about 6,000 in the downtown and central business district. “We’ve got about 2,600-2,700 in some stages of being built. That’s everything from [the newly opened] The Godfrey to the convention center hotel, which is in the early planning stages,” Moyer explains. Plans are in the works to build a hotel that connects to the west side of Huntington Place on the former site of Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s not just one event,” Gleasure says. “There are several
large things coming … so there’s a focus on continuing this momentum to put Detroit back on the mainstage of where these
things take place.”