When the matchup for the 2013 Winter Classic was announced in February, it made the hockey world take notice. Detroit – or specifically, Ann Arbor – would be hosting the game at Michigan Stadium, and the attendance was anticipated to be the biggest yet.
The game is expected to bring a record 115,000 fans to Ann Arbor, and Michigan’s upcoming game against Michigan State would be the ideal time for league representatives to see how the stadium handles big crowds. Because Michigan Stadium is rarely used during the football offseason and is not used to having a lot of vehicle traffic during the football season, there would need to be a lot of planning done, hence the need for multiple scouting trips.
NHL officials came to Detroit in September to scout the stadium for the lauded game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, but because of the lockout, they haven’t scheduled another visit. That non-action has a lot of fans worried.
It has Detroit city officials worried as well. The city is still hurting due to the near collapse of the auto industry and other economic downturns such as the steel industry, and the Winter Classic would definitely be a boost. But without the game, Detroit stands to lose an estimated $50-60 million in tourism revenue. That’s the same problem that Columbus faces if it should lose the 2013 All-Star Game.
The revenue wouldn’t just be felt over a week’s time. When it agreed to hold the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, the league also agreed to build a rink at Comerica Park for a two week winter festival. That rink would’ve hosted high school and Ontario Hockey League games as well as the NCAA’s Great Lakes Invitational tournament. It was also expected to host two Winter Classic alumni games.
If the Winter Classic is cancelled for 2013, it could be rescheduled and held in Detroit in 2014. But any revenue gained then will never make up for the revenue the city could’ve had now.