'This is huge': Windsor hosting draft events as NFL fans in Canada flock to city

Canada NFL Draft Detroit
Posted at 10:57 PM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 23:37:06-04

WINDSOR, Ontario (WXYZ) — While Detroit is the focus of the NFL Draft, across the river in Canada, Windsor is also ready for the premiere event to begin.

There is still hotel space available in Windsor, Ontario, but four hotels have already booked up with fans eager to take part in the festivities just a short drive away.

Downtown Windsor already has signs up for the NFL Draft, and Canadian fans are ready.

“Oh my goodness, are we ever," Windsor resident Jennifer Watson said. "This is huge!”

windsor NFL Draft detroit
Windsor, Ontario resident Jennifer Watson talks with 7 Action News ahead of the NFL Draft in Detroit. (April 18, 2024)

Canada is home to more NFL fans than some might think including Isaiah Jones who grew up a Los Angeles Chargers fan because of his favorite player LaDainian Tomlinson.

"l always grew up watching the NFL, watching the CFL, just watching ball from my dad and brother always playing,” Jones said.

Jones played defensive back while growing up in Ontario and today still coaches the sport at the University of Windsor. Throughout the city, he's seen the game grow.

windsor nfl draft detroit
NFL fan Isaiah Jones talks with 7 Action News in Windsor, Ontario ahead of the draft in Detroit. (April 18, 2024)

“You see a lot of people wearing their Lions gear loud and proud," Jones said. "You see football being a common sport a lot of guys are getting into.”

“This is Lions country here," Windsor City Councilman Ronaldo Agostino said. "We always like to say this is Canada's NFL city."

Related: Detroit Lions reveal new uniforms after online leak

Agostino is just one public official promoting the city’s draft events. The Transit Windsor tunnel bus is enhancing service during the draft to shuttle football fans back and forth across the border, and at least four hotels including Caesars Windsor already sold out for the first night of the NFL Draft.

windsor NFL draft Detroit
Windsor, Ontario City Councilman Ronaldo Agostino talks about the NFL Draft across the river in Detroit. (April 18, 2024)

Downtown Windsor is also planning events for the draft including viewing screens and a free skills camp for kids with help from NFL Canada.

On Saturday, April 27 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., the NFL Draft Block Party will light up on Ouellette Avenue between University Avenue and Park Street. Featured performers include the Jody Raffoul band, Huttch, Royce da 5’9, Nasaan and Daniel Hex.

“We want to be part of the experience," said Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex. "We're not trying to compete. We're trying to complement with what our good friends in Detroit are doing.”

Orr says during the bid process, they advocated to the NFL for Detroit to land the draft. During a uniform reveal event on Thursday, Detroit Lions Team President Rod Wood acknowledged that proximity to Canada was a selling point.

windsor NFL Draft Detroit
Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex, talks about the NFL Draft in Detroit. (April 18, 2024)

“It was part of our pitch that we were so close to another country," Wood said. "Obviously, international expansion is important to the league and we’ve got a lot of Canadian fans.”

Despite not having an NFL team, Canada is still filled with NFL fans. With the draft being only a short drive away, many are booking their trip to Windsor as the Canadian city and the NFL hope to cash in.

“You're seeing more Canadians in the NFL and I think it's going to continue to grow as this game grows,” Jones said.

To register for the free NFL Draft Block Party in Windsor visit the event's Eventbrite page. To learn more about all of the activities planned for Windsor’s NFL Draft Block Party, visit downtown Windsor's website.