OH MY GOFF: Detroit Lions fans cheer during the wild-card playoff game against Los Angeles at Ford Field on Jan. 14. The Lions, who have never appeared in a Super Bowl, could reach the NFL championship game if they beat San Francisco this weekend. (Getty Images)
Event sells out lower bowl
As a native Michigander, Ellen Trudell understands what the state has been feeling as the Detroit Lions inch their way toward their first Super Bowl appearance.
As the Lions’ senior manager of corporate and employee communication, Trudell is doing her best to pump up a city that is already fervently behind its team.
The NFL team is hosting a watch party at Ford Field for Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the Lions and San Francisco 49ers, which takes place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The game will be shown on the stadium videoboards.
The event is restricted to the lower bowl and all 20,000 tickets sold out within five hours of its announcement at the end of last weekend’s NFC North Divisional playoff game. Tickets cost $20 and are priced at a premium for $1,000 on the secondary market. A portion of the ticket sales go to the Detroit Lions Foundation with a focus on youth and growing the game of football, Trudell said.
“We are emulating a game-day experience as much as possible,” Trudell said.
During its “power hour” — the first hour and a half after gates open — Levy, Ford Field’s concessionaire, will offer food specials and live music. Radio station 97.1 FM The Ticket will be broadcasting from the watch party. Fans will receive two special giveaways, which will not be revealed until game time.
“The Lions cheerleaders will be there,” Trudell said, “Our mascot, Roary, and the Detroit Lions drum team will be there. We’re going to show the game on the videoboards, but we rented screens to roll out onto the field. We’ll have cry elements and fun activations.”
On Friday, to kick off the festivities, the Lions plan to hold a drone show in downtown Detroit.
“We have a full weekend of events leading to the NFC conference championship,” she said.
Trudell said she’s cognizant of fans who have waited their entire lives hoping for a Lions Super Bowl. They’ve made their voices heard at record decibel levels at the indoor stadium.
Dan Wetzel, a columnist for Yahoo! Sports, posted on social media after covering a playoff game at Ford Field that he believes the 22-year-old building is the loudest in pro sports when crowd noise is at its peak.
For the 2023 regular season, the Lions averaged 64,850 in attendance at the 65,000-seat stadium, according to ESPN.
Rossetti, the Detroit-based sports architect, designed Ford Field, plus renovations to the facility over the past decade.
The stadium, which opened in 2002, stands out for incorporating part of the old Dayton Hudson department store warehouse into the building design.
“Being able to, as an organization, deliver it for our fans who are by and large (among) the most loyal fans in the league — if not all sports, and that’s a bold claim — is an honor,” Trudell said. “Even our players referenced that throughout the season. The atmosphere that Ford Field has had during the playoff run is absolutely amazing. Fans are having the time of their lives. I’m so excited to help deliver that in the small way of what I do.”
Ford Field is the latest venue to stage watch parties during playoff runs when the home team is on the road. The concept dates to at least the mid-1990s when United Center in Chicago held watch parties at the arena during the Chicago Bulls’ glory years, when they won six NBA championships. In some markets, watch parties were initially free admission and later evolved into charging nominal fees that were donated to charity, similar to the Lions’ effort.
In most cases, teams organize these events to provide fans with an opportunity to get a taste of the playoff experience, in addition to generating some income from concessions and parking.