Ford Field – Detroit Lions
Forward Down The Field …
There is no greater sound for the hometown football fan than the touchdown anthem. Like them or not, the Detroit Lions are a historic franchise in the NFL and they maintain a special place in the league. It is clear that the league recognizes this with the annual Thanksgiving Day game played at the home of the Lions. The best sound at a Lions home game has to be the singing of “Gridiron Heroes.”
Forward down the field,
A charging team that will not yield,
And with the blue and silver wave,
Stand and cheer the brave,
RAH RAH RAH
Go hard, win the game,
With honor, you will keep your fame,
Down the field and gain,
A Lions victory!
Many fight songs seem to be locked in time. Original recordings from the 40’s or 50’s sound more like a radio spot for Alka Seltzer than an invitation for all the fans to join in and celebrate an athletic achievement. The original version of Gridiron Heroes is no different. However, in the modern age of the Detroit Lions, the original fight song has been preserved with a more modern presentation. For years, the Lions have focused on hard-hat wearing Theo “Gridiron” Spight to lead the crowd in a more upbeat, more modern version of the Lions’ fight song. It is the highlight of the Detroit Lions experience.
Founded in 1930, the Lions are one of the longest-running teams in the old NFL. Currently synonymous with poor play on the field, the Lions have seen success in the previous era of the league with championships in 1935, 1952, 1953 and 1957. Originally the Lions played as the Portsmouth Spartans in 1929. In 1963, the Lions were purchased by William Clay Ford Sr., and they are currently owned by his widow, Martha Firestone Ford.
The home for the Lions since 2002 has been Ford Field. Part of a conscious effort to bring people back and revitalize downtown Detroit, Ford Field is a very different venue from its compatriots in the NFC North. Completely indoors and with a modest capacity of 65,000 and owned by the City of Detroit and Wayne County, Ford Field has a unique feel among NFL venues and is definitely worth exploring for an NFL game.
Food & Beverage 5
As with most modern era, major league venues, concession options for Ford Field are front and center. There is definitely something for everyone and fans who are not interested in spending time exploring or who are interested in planning ahead, checking out the concession map on the Ford Field website is a great idea.
Some of the more interesting options and specialty concessions include local BBQ favourite Slow’s, Greek cuisine at the Pegasus Teverna, Billy Sims BBQ, the Paradise Deli, Big Boy, Soup R Cheesy, Hungry Howie’s Pizza and La Shish. Traditional stadium food can also be found at the Blitz stands. Also, on the second level, there are more affordable options available for those who are a little more cash conscious.
Prices are about what you would expect for an NFL experience. Not over the top as compared to other venues, but definitely on the expensive side. (Pizza $9.25; hot dogs $6.25; Bottomless popcorn $8; soda $8/$6.50; beer $9.50/$9/$8.50)
Soda can be found throughout the stadium and Pepsi products are what you will find. There are also a variety of beer options, especially in The Cooler, a beer specific concession area. Some craft brews that may interest fans include Goose Island and local favourites from Short’s Brew, including Soft Parade and Space Rock.
Incorporated as part of Ford Field is the old Hudson’s Warehouse. This influence is massive and gives Ford Field a truly unique feel among NFL stadia. Upon approaching Ford Field, fans will immediately recognize that old industrial field. Full of red brick and lined with cobblestones on the outside of the street, Ford Field is very aesthetically pleasing from the outside and matches perfectly with its nearest neighbor, Comerica Park. The combination of Lions and Ford blue make for the perfect accents to all of the red brick.
Upon entering the stadium off of Brush Street, fans are immediately greeted by a polite and welcoming staff. It is difficult to make it to a point where the field is physically visible, without hearing, “Welcome to Ford Field” at least three times. The main concourse is a massive meeting place at the southwest corner and the magnitude of the facility immediately hits. That old warehouse feel continues throughout the concourses and the red brick remains.
Once in the seating area, fans are greeted with a totally different experience. The field welcomes fans in a north-south orientation and the eastside of the field is the place for that perfect center-logo picture. Essentially two levels of seating, the west side of the grandstands as well as the ends are where fans will find the majority of seating. Unique to Ford Field is the incorporation of the Hudson’s Warehouse, which was to the east of the field and now houses the entirety of the club seats and luxury boxes. In the rafters fans on the west side fans will find the banners for the Lions’ division, conference and four NFL Championships. On the fascia of the east side fans will find the history of the Lions with the Ring of Honor. Honoured members include, Dutch Clark, Barry Sanders, Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Joe Schmidt, Chuck Hughes, Alex Wojciechowicz, Jack Christiansen, Lou Creekmur, Yale Larry, Lem Barney, Charlie Sanders, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Dick LeBeau and Jason Hanson. The first six members of the Ring of Honor also have their numbers retired. In the upper corner on the southwest side there is also a large mural honouring William Clay Ford, the former owner of the Lions who has recently passed away. The video boards are massive and are found in the north and south ends of the stadium and the massive pillars in the corners also have video capabilities.
The Lions do a great job putting together something that has that big event feel. Live bands play in various parts of the stadium before the game. Photo ops with the mascot Roary the Lion are available and the Lions Cheerleaders help with the promotional work. At the beginning of the game the Lions Drumline help welcome the team to the field and, of course, Theo Spight rallies the crowd after Lion scores with his rendition of “Gridiron Heroes.”
Since the opening of Comerica Park and Ford Field the immediate downtown neighborhood has seen significant improvement. The downtown location and lack of open parking makes tailgating before Lions games fairly sparse. There are a number of pre and post game options for grabbing a bite or a drink. Some of the best options include Cheli’s Chili Bar, Wahlburgers, Fishbone’s, the Detroit Beer Company and the ever popular Hockeytown Cafe. A short drive away fans will find Slow’s BBQ which is a real hit.
As far as entertainment options go, downtown Detroit continues to impress with an increasing number of options. Other shows can be found at he nearby Fox Theatre or the Filmore Detroit; both significant contributors to the gentrification of downtown. The Greektown Casino is a few short blocks from Ford Field and leads to a whole new neighborhood with an increasing number of possibilities. For fans interested in more sports, right across the street from Ford Field is Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Brand new to the area also is Little Caesars Arena which is on the other side of the Fisher Freeway. Little Caesars Arena completes the return to downtown for all of the Detroit sports teams as it is the brand new home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons. College basketball fans will also want to check out Calihan Hall, the home of the Detroit Mercy Titans.
For fans wishing to stay near Ford Field there are a few options. The Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Detroit and the Atheneum Suite Hotel are both very close to Ford Field and offer an easy walk to the game.
Being a fan of the Lions must be tough at times. On the field the team’s performance has been inconsistent at best. That being said, the Lions’ faithful have remained true to the team and averaged between 60,000 and 62,000 fans per game over the last three seasons. This is definitely in the lowest tier of league attendance but Ford Field does have a pretty small capacity as compared to other NFL facilities.
At the game that was reviewed, the Lions fans were loud and proud to start the game off. The indoor facility was a true home field advantage for the blue and silver. However, it did not take too long for that noise and energy to fall off. For the Lions to score a perfect mark more fans and more consistent support during the game needs to be a priority.
Ford Field is located in downtown Detroit, southwest of the junction of I-375 and I-75. Getting in and around downtown by car can be a bit of a chore at times. The best plan for fans coming in by car is to give themselves plenty of time to get to their destination and spend that extra time exploring downtown or Ford Field.
As far as parking goes, there are plenty of privately run parking garages and surface lots near Ford Field. Parking will run anywhere from $20-$50. For fans coming to Ford Field for the first time, pre-purchasing parking through a secondary parking site is definitely a good idea.
Fans that are interested in public transit may chose to take the Detroit People Mover or one of the bus lines that stops near Ford Field. Check out the Detroit Transit website for fares, schedules and maps.
Security at Ford Field, as for all NFL facilities seems to be in a state of constant change. Clear bag policy is in effect in Detroit and it is advised that fans ensure that they are prepared for security procedures in practice at Ford Field. It is highly recommended that fans consult the security website before heading to the game and be ready, rather than disappointed. Security, although arduous, does move at a fairly good rate and security workers are friendly.
Inside Ford Field, concourses are fairly wide and moving around the stadium is not too difficult. Washroom facilities are adequate for the number of fans in attendance.
Return on Investment 3
As with all NFL experiences, the investment for a Detroit Lions game is fairly significant. Tickets for the Lions will run from $59 to $359. According to the Fan Cost Index, the Lions rank 19th in the NFL with an index of $478.84. This is below the NFL average of $502. Parking will run for at least $20 and concession prices, although not out of line for the NFL, are still on the expensive side. The return for the Lions is fairly strong with the event-like atmosphere that the Lions put together. That being said, the increasing cost of an NFL experience makes the return on investment a challenge.
An extra mark for the Lions and their refurbishment of historic Hudson’s Warehouse as part of Ford Field.
An extra mark for the Lions part in revitalizing downtown Detroit.
An extra mark for Theo Spight and “Gridiron Heroes” one of the best NFL fight songs around and the best example of taking a classic fight song and modernizing it in the right way.
Although the product on the field is not always the best in Detroit, the experience inside Ford Field is great. The surprisingly unique nature of Ford Field really adds to the Lions experience and the dulcet tones of Gridiron Heroes will make the experience that much better.
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Hilton Garden Inn
351 Gratiot Ave
Detroit, MI 48226
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Detroit, MI 48226
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Latest Crowd Reviews
Ford Field is a very comfortable place to see a game, and the team seems to have the young talent to keep their fans entertained for years to come. Do yourself a favor and visit Ford Field in the near future. Better yet, spend your Thanksgiving at Ford Field, an NFL tradition going back to 1934 when the Lions moved from Portsmouth, Ohio to the Motor City.