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The Detroit Lions and University of Michigan Wolverines boost local economy.

The roar of the crowd on game day isn't just a sign of spirited competition; it heralds a significant economic impact on local economies, especially in places like Detroit and Ann Arbor. The Detroit Lions and the University of Michigan Wolverines aren't just teams; they're economic engines driving local prosperity through sports.

This phenomenon extends beyond the immediate surge in commerce on game days. It influences real estate values, with areas around stadiums and universities becoming more desirable.

The economic fabric of a city can be intricately woven with the success of its sports teams. They are not just teams, they are institutions that drive the local economy, foster community spirit, and contribute significantly to the region's identity. 

They're not just playing games; they're building communities, fostering civic pride, and laying the groundwork for economic stability that resonates throughout the year, far beyond the confines of the football season.

This blog explores how these sports giants impact the local economy and community, providing a playbook on the power of sports beyond the field.

Economic impact of Football on local communities Detroit and Ann Arbor

The Detroit Lions: Roaring into the Economy

Photo credit: Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions, our local NFL team with a storied history, are expected to be a top revenue generator by 2030, with projections indicating a substantial increase in franchise revenue. This growth is not just a win for the team but a touchdown for our local economy. The Lions' success and initiatives such as hosting the NFL Draft, have the potential to bring a $100 million, an economic impact akin to hosting a Super Bowl. 

This influx of revenue benefits local businesses, hotels, and tourism, showcasing the team's significant economic footprint beyond game days. Many businesses will be promoting the event to ensure visitors can experience all of what Detroit has to offer, with Golden Limo offering a guide to Discovering Detroit & special NFL Draft Transportation options. 

The Lions' advanced analytics war room is another area where the team is scoring economically. This innovative approach not only enhances team performance but also stimulates local job creation, boosts tourism, and fosters business growth. 

It's a testament to how sports teams can leverage technology for broader economic benefits.

Photo credit: Detroit Free Press

Did You Know? 

The Detroit Lions' adoption of advanced analytics, through a partnership with Trace3 to create a war room, enhances team performance, fan experience, and local economy. 

This approach extends beyond typical sports analytics, aiming to improve game day experiences at Ford Field, thus boosting local businesses and reducing congestion. 

Their efforts also support the local tech sector and STEM education, preparing the future workforce while fostering economic growth and urban revitalization.


The Lions Franchise Experienced a Significant Boost

Traditionally ranking low in sales, the team's value surged by 43% in 2023, leading the NFL according to Sportico's report. The first playoff game in 32 years, held on January 14, 2024, generated $20 million for Detroit, per Crain's Detroit Business. Additionally, the Lions-Buccaneers game's economic impact exceeded $50 million in one day, comparable to Taylor Swift's concert revenue, Visit Detroit reported

The Wolverines' Winning Play for the Economy

Similarly, the University of Michigan Wolverines football team plays a pivotal role in energizing Ann Arbor area's economy. Game days see a significant uptick in spending as fans flock to the city, filling local establishments and buying merchandise. 

This phenomenon, often referred to as the "Flutie Effect," demonstrates how successful sports programs can elevate a university's profile and, by extension, its local economy.

Photo credit: Fox News

The Wolverines' success on the field translates into a bustling local economy because of it. From increased hotel bookings to packed restaurants and local service requests, the financial benefits are widespread. Moreover, the team's success boosts the university's applications and donations, highlighting the interconnectedness of sports success and academic prosperity. The athletic department's record revenue and surplus for FY2022 highlights the financial impact of the Wolverines' success.

Game days in Ann Arbor turn the city into a bustling hub of activity, with hotels, restaurants, and retail stores reaping the benefits of the influx of fans.

Moreover, the introduction of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) opportunities has further strengthened the Wolverines' economic impact. These partnerships allow athletes to leverage their fame for endorsements, thereby circulating more money within the local economy and giving businesses unique marketing opportunities.

This new revenue stream not only benefits the athletes but also contributes to the local economy by increasing spending and investment in the area.

The community also benefits from charitable work from these types of partnerships, such as the Big Toy Drive, which was supported by the NIL partnership of Golden Limousine and the University of Michigan defensive back Will Johnson.

Detroit Airport's Surge in Airline Traffic

Airport with airplane, view from above

The economic impact of the Detroit Lions and University of Michigan Wolverines extends beyond the immediate vicinity of their stadiums, reaching as far as the skies. 

The success and popularity of these teams have had a notable effect on airline traffic, particularly at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW). 

This influx of visitors highlights the teams' broad appeal and also signals a significant boon for the local economy, from the airport itself to the myriad of businesses that benefit from increased tourism.

Impact on Airport Revenue and Local Tourism

The increase in airline traffic during the football season contributes significantly to airport revenue through landing fees, parking, and concessions. The airport's bustling activity during these peak times is a testament to the powerful economic engine sports teams can be, influencing sectors far beyond their immediate industry.

Visitors often extend their stay beyond game day, exploring local attractions, dining at restaurants, and shopping, further injecting money into the local economy. The increase in ground transportation services further amplifies this inflow, as visitors seek transportation to navigate the city, contributing to the local transportation sector's growth.

Local Tourism and Willow Run's Economy

The Willow Run Airport, with its historical significance, plays a strategic role in accommodating the increased air traffic and visitors, especially those flying in via charter or private aircraft. It offers a complementary entry point, enhancing the accessibility and convenience for visitors coming to the area. 

On major game weekends, both airports experience a noticeable uptick in passenger traffic, underlining the teams' wide appeal and the broader economic ripple effects of sports on the transportation and tourism sectors. 

Its inclusion in these dynamic events underscores the interconnectedness of the region's airports in facilitating sports tourism and supporting the local economy.

Community Engagement and Branding Beyond the Field


The economic impact of the Detroit Lions and the University of Michigan Wolverines extends beyond direct financial contributions. 

These teams foster community pride, create jobs, and contribute to urban development. Their success brings people together, supporting local businesses like Golden Limousine International and encouraging community engagement and philanthropy.

They continue to extend their influence beyond economic figures through community engagement and branding efforts. 

These initiatives not only build a loyal fan base but also create a lasting legacy of support within the community. 

Merchandise sales further this connection, turning fans into walking billboards for the teams and their respective cities.

Long-term Economic Benefits: Building a Legacy

Photo credit: Barton Malow

The lasting impact of the Detroit Lions and the University of Michigan Wolverines on their surrounding communities stretches far beyond the excitement of game day. These teams are not just cornerstones of local pride and tradition; they are powerful engines driving economic growth and urban development. 

The investments they catalyze in infrastructure and the surge in tourism they inspire contribute significantly to the fabric of these cities, weaving a legacy of prosperity and vibrancy.

When we talk about infrastructure improvements, we're looking at a broad array of projects that these sports entities help to spur. This might include the development of new stadiums, enhancements to transportation networks to ease access to games, or the upgrade of local facilities. 

Such improvements not only make the cities more navigable and enjoyable for residents but also boost their attractiveness to visitors.

The Ripple Effect?

An influx of tourists, drawn by the allure of high-energy games and state-of-the-art venues, flocking to the city, eager to experience its culture, cuisine, and hospitality. 

This surge in visitors translates into more feet through the doors of local businesses, from hotels and restaurants to retail shops and entertainment venues, pumping vitality and cash into the local economy.

Beyond the tangible brick-and-mortar contributions, the media deals associated with the Detroit Lions and the University of Michigan Wolverines are a financial Benefit. These agreements broadcast the excitement of the games to a national and sometimes global audience, securing lucrative contracts that funnel millions into the teams and, by extension, the community. 

This influx of revenue supports not only the operational and developmental needs of the teams but also contributes to local employment, from direct jobs within the sports complexes to ancillary roles in service and hospitality sectors buoyed by the increased demand.


The Detroit Lions and the University of Michigan Wolverines are more than just teams; they are vital cogs in the economic machine of their respective locales. 

Through game day spending, community engagement, and long-term investments, they generate significant economic benefits. 

While challenges exist, the positive impact of these teams on local economies is undeniable, making every touchdown and victory not just a win on the field but a triumph for the community.


How do sports teams like the Lions and Wolverines impact local economies?

They boost spending on game days, stimulate local business growth, and create jobs, leading to a vibrant local economy.

What is the "Flutie Effect"?

It refers to the increase in university applications and donations following a successful sports season, named after Doug Flutie, whose famous play in 1984 led to a surge in applications to Boston College.

How do NIL policies affect college athletes and local economies?

NIL policies allow college athletes to earn from their name, image, and likeness, benefiting both the athletes and local businesses through endorsements and partnerships.

What are the challenges of hosting major sports teams in cities?

Challenges include managing traffic congestion, the costs associated with infrastructure improvements, and debates over the use of public funds for private stadiums.