March Madness visitors share impressions of Detroit as city sets up for NFL Draft

Posted at 7:30 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 19:48:36-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The fencing erected downtown for the NFL Draft and road closures are a foreign site to Detroiters. Now, visitors are getting a glimpse of what the city will be like in the coming weeks, and they're sharing their impressions of downtown so far.

"Our son is playing for the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the tournament — the Sweet 16," Eric Stromer said.

Stromer and his wife Amy are in town from Los Angeles.

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Eric and Amy Stromer visit Detroit to watch their son, who plays basketball for Gonzaga University, in the NCAA Tournament. (March 28, 2024)

"We love it here," Amy Stromer said. "The riverwalk is gorgeous today by the way."

Eric Stromer said he's a "huge fan of resurgence.”

They’re among thousands of people visiting downtown Detroit this weekend as the city starts to set up for the NFL Draft. Like many visitors for March Madness, they were unaware of why the fences are set up and roads are closed.

Learn more about the construction ahead of the draft in the video player below:

Construction kicking off for the NFL Draft

But Eric Stromer said he’s noticed a heightened police presence.

“It makes it feel different because I’ve been coming here for years and it used to feel like wow, this might be a little bit sketchy walking down the street. But now, it feels like there’s police support, which I think is great,” he explained.

Chris and Leo are visiting from Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, respectively. They said they're working the NCAA Tournament. They said not only are they impressed, but they understand the impact a big sporting event can have on a region.

"I think it's been a good thing for the city. Obviously, it's going to bring a lot of tourists here. It's going to bring some money into the city. So, I think it's a good thing," Chris said.

March Madness in Detroit
Chris and Leo visit Detroit for the NCAA Tournament. (March 29, 2024)

Leo added, "Yeah, especially with the nightlife that's been happening. I think last night, we got to see a lot of that going on and that'll be popular when you guys have the draft here too."

But not everyone is here for college basketball. The Simone family is visiting from Chicago.

“We’re in town for Steven Marley and Damien Marley’s concert this evening,” Brian Simone said. "Detroit looks good."

Detroit visitor
Jacob and Brian Simone visit Detroit for a concert. (March 29, 2024)

His son Jacob added, "It’s really nice, actually.”

“Honestly, when I was coming here I kind of thought it was going to be a lot worse. But in the downtown, it’s really nice. I was very surprised and there’s new buildings being brought. I was pretty surprised."

Claude Molinari, president and CEO of Visit Detroit, said the excitement for NFL Draft may have overshadowed the Sweet 16's presence. Regardless, it's one attraction after the next.

Claude Molinari
Claude Molinari, president and CEO of Visit Detroit, talks about the NCAA Tournament and the NFL Draft happening in the city. (March 29, 2024)

“All these people coming here from all over the country, you know, from Indiana, from Omaha, from California — all that’s going to matter when they see the city. Because we always say ‘If we get ‘em here. We’ll get ‘em here.’ And once they come for a sporting event, maybe they’ll want to come back for tourism," Molinari explained.

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