Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan will get along fine without the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, which was officially cancelled on Friday.
Sure, the university has lost the $3-million US rental fee - actually $2.9 million because there was a non-refundable $100,000 deposit put down by the league for the use of Michigan Stadium.
Sure, the restaurants, bars and hotels around the lively college town will not be as full as they'd be if the Winter Classic was played. But the Wolverines football team will be in a bowl game, U of M's hockey and basketball teams also have busy holiday-season schedules to keep area sports fans occupied.
Besides, when the NHL and NHLPA finally do settle their differences on a new collective agreement, you can bet Michigan Stadium will play host to the next Winter Classic. The same situation will play out for Columbus, when the NHL gets around to cancelling the 2013 all-star game that was to be hosted by the Blue Jackets.
The place to feel sorry for is downtown Detroit.
It could use some good financial times.
This was to be a different Winter Classic, bigger and maybe better than the previous outdoor games in Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The Red Wings had planned a two-week Winter Classic festival for downtown Motor City leading up to the main event on New Year's Day. There was to be nine games played over five days at Comerica Park, the home of the World Series finalist Detroit Tigers, located 70 kilometres from Michigan Stadium.
The nine-game schedule at Comerica looked like this:
Dec. 27 - Great Lakes Invitational: Michigan vs. Michigan Tech; Western Michigan St. vs. Western Michigan.
Dec. 28 - Great Lakes consolation and championship finals.
Dec. 29 - OHL doubleheader: Windsor vs. Saginaw; Plymouth vs. London.
Dec. 30 - AHL game: Grand Rapids vs. Toronto.
Dec. 31 - Two games between Red Wings and Maple Leafs alumni.
Needing to cash in
With only two Detroit Lions games at nearby Ford Field in late December, downtown Detroit establishments like the Hockeytown Cafe, Fishbones, Detroiter, Jacoby's, Old Shillelagh, Sweetwater Tavern, Foran's, Town Pump Tavern and Pappy's won't be able to cash in without the Winter Classic festival.
These places certainly were part of the 2006 Super Bowl boom, which infused the local economy with an estimated $270 million. Last February, when details of the 2013 Winter Classic were finalized, NHL COO John Collins forecasted a $75-million boost to the Southeastern Michigan economy.
You can add Windsor, Ont., across the river into that mix, too. Mayor Eddie Francis told the Windsor Star last week that he believed "the economic impact would be well over $2 million in direct spending" to the border city on the Canadian side.
Two years ago, Michigan and Michigan State attracted 104,173 to Michigan Stadium for an outdoor game. The NHL expected 115,000 strong with tickets priced between $79 and $279.
The gate, along with corporate sponsorship and the sale of Winter Classic merchandise, was expected to bring in between $10 and $15 million in revenues for the NHL. The outdoor game also has had an impact in the swelling of the latest contracts with NBC and CBC.
But while the NHL and the players will lose out on a revenue windfall, the biggest immediate loser will be downtown Motown.
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