Over the course of the 2017 season, the Detroit Lions set a new team attendance record at Ford Field by drawing more than 513,000 fans.
Ford Field has hosted the Lions since 2002, and the team’s attendance total of 513,100 in 2017 was the highest over its history at the stadium. On the field this year, the team finished 9-7, good for second in the NFC North but not enough to qualify for the playoffs. However, Ford Field offered some significant changes on the fan experience side, thanks to a $100-million slate of renovations.
In what was one of the more extensive NFL stadium renovation projects completed before the 2017 season, the Lions installed new video displays. Furthermore, Ford Field received improved suites along with new concession and club areas. The attendance spike in 2017 should also help the Lions in their effort to pay off the privately financed renovations. More from Crain’s Detroit:
Lions President Rod Wood confirmed to Crain’s in August that the team got NFL approval to use “visiting share waivers” to offset the cost of the renovations. He declined to go into detail, but did say the team has up to 15 years to collect the money to pay off construction debt.
Under league rules adopted for the 2002 season, NFL clubs keep 60 percent of their tickets sales for each game, and the other 40 percent is shared with the rest of the league. The visiting share waiver is used by the league as a tool to finance stadium projects, Wood said. The money the Lions would normally send to the NFL to be pooled for the other 31 clubs instead will be used to pay off construction loans.
The Lions don’t disclose their finances, so it’s unknown how much money they contribute to the shared pool from their ticket sales. Forbes estimated the Lions had $51 million in total gate receipts for the 2016 season and an $86 average ticket price. This season, Lions tickets averaged $99, and the team has raised prices for the past four seasons.
The stadium renovation included refurnished suites and creation of several new clubs and concessions areas, along with massive new video boards, lighting and sound systems — improvements that, along with a pretty good team, may have led to the attendance boost.
The total attendance for 2017 surpasses the previous Ford Field-era high of 510,369 that was set in 2013.
Rendering courtesy Detroit Lions.