DETROIT (WXYZ) — One of the biggest nights in sports is coming to Detroit, and the city is ready. The NFL draft is now just over 70 days away.
"Me and my three buddies will be down here and we're excited for it,” said John Shock of Carleton, who says he's never been to the draft before.
“It's great they chose Detroit as the spot, so they can see how it's up and coming, especially in the downtown area," Detroit resident Kija Chambers said. "We come together as a city when there’s something going on.”
Chambers is no stranger to Campus Martius. Her 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son were enjoying the city’s ice rink on Friday. And soon, they’ll be down here again enjoying the draft.
"We're excited to come down and see what they have going for it,” Chambers said. "I'm excited to see what it's going to bring to the city, the excitement it's going to bring, all the people.”
Days before the Super Bowl, the NFL released renderings showing what the draft stage in Detroit will look like. The event will take over the downtown area, with the stage set up right in Cadillac Square.
Crowds, viewing areas and activities will spread from Campus Martius down Woodward Avenue toward Hart Plaza, which will also have activities. Hart Plaza and the viewing areas will be free entry.
“I liken the draft to a giant tailgate party,” President and CEO of Visit Detroit Claude Molinari said. "Similar to (the) tree lighting, that (Campus Martius) will be an epicenter of all the fans coming to be able to watch the draft itself, and that will spill out all across the downtown."
Chatting from Las Vegas at Super Bowl media days, Molinari hopes the event will highlight the city of Detroit and bring more events to downtown.
“We’re using the platform of the NFL draft coming to Detroit to highlight the city and really, the biggest challenge I see us having is a perception challenge. People have a wrong perception of the city and the region," Molinari said. “I'm expecting we're going to get the NHL All-Star Game, the NBA All-Star Game. I'm desperate for us to host the Big Ten Football Championship.”
That’s a positive for businesses like Grand Trunk Pub, located right on that stretch of Woodward. The owner also owns Checker Bar, which is located right next to where the draft stage will be.
“Concerts can only do so much, but this is a huge event,” said Xavier Manalo, front of House Operations at Grand Trunk Pub and Checker Bar. "Detroit has a lot to offer and a lot of people just haven't experienced it yet, and I think they need to.”
The two bars can't wait for the draft and plan to host their own special events that weekend to celebrate.
“This is normally our slow time, slow season for the restaurant industry," Manalo said. "It's nice to have events like this to keep us going and pushing forward, especially in those slow times.”
Adding to the excitement was the Detroit Lions' success this season. Detroit has become a football crazed town that's now ready to welcome one of the league’s biggest events.
“They're just bringing everyone together," Shock said of the Lions. "You have a lot of people who were not interested in the Lions and now they are."