Ford Field - Detroit Lions
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Ford Field 2000 Brush St Detroit, MI 48226
Year Opened: 2002 Capacity: 65,000
The definition of sports futility may just be the Detroit Lions. In the conversation for most long suffering fans, the Lions have tortured their fans by only winning one National Football League playoff game since 1957. Most fans forget the dominance of the Lions in the pre Super Bowl era, which is understandable. There may be many who sleep on the Lions as a force in the NFL, however, nobody should sleep on the experience at Ford Field.
One of the centerpiece items built to help revitalize downtown Detroit, Fied Field opened its doors in 2002 and signaled the end of the Lions existence at the Pontiac Silverdome. A resurgence in the experience for fans, Ford Field has also hosted the NCAA Final Four, NCAA Frozen Four, Mid-American Conference Championship game and Quick Lane Bowl as well as a ton of concerts and WrestleMania 23. Until 2014 the Lions were under the care of owner William Clay Ford. With his death, the team is owned by his daughter Sheila Ford Hamp. A trip to the Lions will show fans what Lions Loyalty is all about.
Food & Beverage 4
The concession scene is very strong at Ford Field. Fans will be more than pleased to find local favorites inside Ford Field including Slow’s BBQ, Hungry Howie’s Pizza and Big Boy. Other options include Taste of Greektown, Hon Cho Poletown Sausage and Lefty’s Famous Cheesesteaks. The Street Eats of Detroit and Goalpost Grille provide more traditional stadium fare. There is little for the fan to desire. Some stands provide “Power Hour” specials which give special pricing from 11 to 12 on a regular 1 pm game.
There are plenty of beer options available throughout the stadium. Leinenkugel, Miller Lite and Blue Moon are all available, but the presence of Bud Light is pretty overwhelming. A number of bars throughout the stadium also offer a variety of other alcoholic beverages. Pepsi products are the soft drinks of choice at Ford Field.
Ford Field is one of the centerpiece buildings that have highlighted the return to downtown. Built into a former warehouse, Ford Field has maintained some of that industrial charm, heavily relying on a brown brick exterior with some marble inserts with Ford Field and Lions logos. Large, glass atriums at the southeast and southwest corners of the stadium offer great gathering places.
Unlike the majority of NFL stadiums, Ford Field is completely enclosed. Some may consider this to be a detractor for the stadium, but the harsh Michigan winters make domed field a welcome feature. A far cry from the Pontiac Silverdome, the roof at Fied Field features huge translucent panels which bring in plenty of natural light. Also, the southwest and southeast corners are open and the light from the atriums help give fans the feeling of being outdoors while enjoying comfort from the elements. The north and south concourses are very different. The south concourse nods back to the industrial roots of the area with wrought iron gates at the entrance of sections and brick walls and cobblestone flooring. The north concourse is the complete opposite with a much more modern feel to it. Posts in the concourses are covered with images of current Lions players and Lions greats of the past.
The east-west oriented, field turf field is surrounded by two main tiers of seating. The south side features four tiers of luxury boxes. The fascia of those boxes has the names of the 19 members of the Pride of the Lions ring of honour. Members include Alex Karras, Roger Brown, Herman Moore, Bobby Layne, Joe Schmidt, Doak Walker, Lou Creekmur, Dick Lane, Lem Barney, Dick LeBeau, Dick Stanfel, Jason Hanson, Chris Spielman, Jack Christiansen, Dutch Clark, Yale Lary, Charlie Sanders, Alex Wojciechowicz and Barry Sanders. Opposite, on the north side hang the banners the Lions have earned for various division and conference championships. The American flag is surrounded by the 1935, 1952, 1953 and 1957 NFL Championship banners, earned before the Super Bowl era. Massive video boards hang above the north and south end zones. There are plenty of other screens around and massive ribbon boards encase the southeast and southwest pillars. The south side is where fans will want to be for that perfect fifty yard line logo picture.
The fun at a Lions game begins outside in the Pride Plaza. Food trucks and a variety of football related games will welcome fans along with a DJ and short zip line. The Lions drumline, Honolulu Boom performs outside before the game and again inside. Once nearing kickoff, the energy level increases with performances by Honolulu Boom and the Detroit Lions Cheerleaders, leading to the player introductions with entry from the southwest corner. The rest of the gameday experience is what would be expected at any NFL venue with the mascot, Roary, taking part in promotions and on field excitement. Everything is ratcheted up after a Lions touchdown where Theo Spight belts out his rendition of “Gridiron Heroes,” possibly the best fight song in the entire NFL. Spight’s rendition of the classic tune, modernizes the song from the thirties and makes it a critical part of the atmosphere.
The last two decades have produced a distinct change in downtown Detroit. Currently, there are plenty of places to go for some pre or post game food and drinks. These include Hockeytown Cafe, Fishbones, Delmar Detroit and Harbor House. It has taken some time to get to this point, but the necessity of heading right to the car after the Lions game is no longer a necessity. Right across the street from Ford Field is Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. The Pistons and Red Wings play at Little Caesars Arena, which is just on the other side of the Fisher Freeway. Fans of college hoops can head over to the University of Detroit Mercy and take in a Detroit Mercy Titans game at the hidden gem, Calihan Hall. The Fox Theatre, Gem Theatre, and Greektown Casino provide other avenues for entertainment within steps of the stadium. The Hilton Garden Inn and Atheneum Suites provide hotel options within walking distance of the Lions.
It is hard to find a group of fans that are more loyal than Detroit Lion fans. To refer to them as long-suffering may be an understatement. In 2022 the Lions have ranked close to the bottom of the league in attendance. However, the 65,000 capacity is pretty small by NFL standards. In 2021, the Lions ranked dead last in the NFL with a capacity below 80 percent. This could be because of the pandemic and the nearby border to Canada being closed. In the end, however, Detroit Lions fans are loud and passionate and have stuck with a team for a long time when the on-field product has given them little reason to return to the stadium.
Getting to Ford Field can be a bit of a challenge, but some pre-planning can go a long way. Fans coming in by car should be prepared to get there early and maneuver some traffic. There are plenty of parking options within the vicinity. Pre-purchasing parking through a parking app is the best option. There is some tailgating in Detroit and fans driving, who do not want to tailgate should plan well and avoid those lots. The Greektown garage is a pretty good option. For fans wanting to take public transit, The Detroit People Mover loops around downtown Detroit. There are also bus stops that run along Beaubien to the south. Check out the Detroit People Mover, Detroit Department of Transportation and SmartBus websites for schedules, fares and maps. If getting to Ford Field is a bit of a challenge, leaving the stadium can be painstaking. The flood of pedestrians and plenty of traffic in a very small area makes driving out of downtown a real challenge.
The NFL has some of the tightest security and getting into Ford Field, even two hours before kickoff, is not super quick. Fans should research before heading out and know the latest security details, including bag policy by checking out the Lions and Ford Field websites.
Return on Investment 3
The Detroit Lions are a great experience, but as with any NFL experience, fans are going to pay. The lions are relatively cost effective as compared to other NFL teams. With a fan cost index of over $480, the Lions ranked 29th most expensive in 2021. Fans heading to the Detroit Lions game will undoubtedly enjoy themselves, however, even with a relatively affordable experience compared to other NFL spots, the Lions remain a pricey endeavor. The NFL pushes the "once in a lifetime" pricing model which pushes fans to view NFL games as a necessary luxury.
An extra mark for the announcement that the Lions will erect a bronze statue of the likeness of NFL Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders in front of Ford Field before the 2023 season. This would be the first such honour for any Lion.
An extra mark for Theo Spight and “Gridiron Heroes” the touchdown song of the Lions which is sung live after each trip to the end zone and victory. The song is old school but sung in a modern, catchy way.
An extra mark for the hearty Detroit Lions fans who have endured years of futility and still come out to support their Lions each game.
An extra mark for the traditional Lions game on Thanksgiving Day. An NFL tradition for decades.
Whether it is enjoying the fun in the Pride Plaza or belting out Gridiron Heroes with Theo Spight, the fans of the Detroit Lions make the most of their experience each and every game. Not being required to sit through the cold Detroit winters is a plus and the loyalty of Lions is unquestioned after a long drought of on-field success. Taking in a Lions game is something that all football fans should consider in their travels.