Planners and developers have long said downtown Detroit has had a shortage of hotel rooms that has cramped the city’s ability to lure major events from the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL and others in recent years.
Until yesterday, apparently.
But even though the city is hosting the 2024 National Football League draft, it will not have made a serious dent in what those planners and developers have said is a room shortfall to accommodate such affairs.
This isn’t to say that the NFL Draft will be the Fyre Fest of the Midwest.
There are some 4,500 or 5,000 rooms downtown not to mention more than 40,000 or 45,000 in the surrounding suburbs, Claude Molinari, president and CEO of Visit Detroit, said when asked how the city was able to make the case to the NFL regardless of the hotel situation. Let’s also not forget Airbnbs and other accommodations
Those 40,000-plus suburban hotels could accommodate the tens of thousands of fans who are more budget-conscious, Molinari said. In addition, heavily traveled and well-regarded Detroit Metropolitan Airport as well as the city’s proximity to Canada, which has a large contingent of NFL fans, were some of the key reasons the league didn’t pass on the city in spite of the downtown hotel situation.
That, coupled with pairing Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza as draft staging areas just a few blocks apart, made a compelling case, Molinari said.
That’s all well and good, and the city will be bonkers in two years when the draft is in town.
But still, there are just a handful of hotels under construction or soon to be that have any chance of being completed by the time the draft — and its potentially tens of thousands of attendants — rolls into town. Those include the Godfrey Hotel in Corktown, the Cambria Hotel, the AC by Marriott (which hasn’t started construction yet) and the Temple Hotel in the former Standard Accident Insurance Co. building, which halted construction in 2020 and has not yet resumed, although substantial work has taken place.
Although that’s several hundred rooms, it’s still not as many as planners would like, even though properties like the Shinola Hotel, Siren Hotel and the Element hotel, all downtown, have opened in recent years.
“That added 500 hotel rooms which are on the nicer side of things, and the casinos have all gone through renovations and are nice products, so that’s another 1,200 rooms right there,” said Brandon Leversee, a Royal Oak-based vice president for hospitality research company HVS.
That shortage and a trickle of supply, compared to what is desired, hasn’t stopped discussions from taking place on adding more as recently as Monday, said Molinari, who is also Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s appointee to the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority that oversees what is now Huntington Place.
Molinari told me on Monday, after it was announced that Detroit would host the three-day 2024 NFL Draft, that the convention facility authority has had recent discussions with Detroit-based developer Sterling Group about its vision for the former Joe Louis Arena site next to Huntington Place, the former Cobo Center/TCF Center.