"When you lose as much as the Lions have [prior to this season], the atmosphere isn't quite the best in the world." This "energetic, yet sourly pessimistic," bunch "always" makes Ford Field "pretty darn loud, but there is always a good chance the fans will turn on the team at some point, which is a different kind of fun." Games typically "begin with an anticipation that nears fanaticism and then comes crashing down when everyone realizes the Lions just can't win -- halfway through the first quarter." And "during a bad game -- and we have lots -- it can get ugly," as "some fans drown their sorrows in beer and then scream, obscenities about [GM] Matt Millen while the 6-year-old nearby politely asks his dad what a !*?% is." The Lions personnel boss seems to inspire a cottage industry of fan disgust, prompting "regular chants of 'FIRE MILLEN!'" and security personnel to "chase people who hold up FIRE MILLEN signs." Despite the unhappiness, "Detroit has an amazing amount of fans for a losing team." Whether Lions fans are "the most loyal in the league or the most stupid," the place is usually packed" each Sunday, a scene some equate to "a mass funeral where some hope the person isn't dead." For others, that level of unrewarded passion is simply an expression of how much "we want to win." "If the Lions ever break .500, it will be a frenzy." We believe it.
7 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (16 oz.)
Beer (16 oz.)
Expected Meal Cost
"There are a lot of different types of eateries beyond just hot dogs, burgers and sausage," and many of them "local chains." "Charlie Sanders [the former Lions Hall of Fame tight end] has a place that has a barbecued nachos plate that could feed a family of four for a reasonable price," in addition to "great, cheap pulled pork sandwiches." Speaking of former Lions, Herman Moore, runs a coffee/espresso shop on the upper concourse. Though some cite the cinnamon bun as worthy of a visit, others feel "you can't leave without getting a burger at the Big Boy stand." If you're looking for a true Detroit-area snack, Poletown Sausage serves "the best" bratwurst. That may not be the "sky's the limit" fare of beef tenderloin and Chinese chicken salad found on the club level, but it isn't bad.
7 out of 10
"Ford Field is right in downtown Detroit," which "naturally brings more traffic," but where "multiple downtown streets ease the [traffic] flow." "Plenty of highways and city streets funnel you to the stadium," but those "small and narrow" streets "can become extremely congested if you don't know where you're going." "Parking is spread throughout the city," from a "parking garage next to Ford Field" to "private lots" farther away to the nearby "Greektown Casino," which "validates parking and is only a short walk from the stadium." The city's light rail system, the People Mover, "is close and can spread out the crowds," but "doesn't drop-off near the stadium." But without "a lot of reasons to be heading down to Detroit on a Sunday morning besides going to a Lions game, traffic is pretty laid back."
5 out of 10
Since the stadium doesn't have a "single, large parking lot," "there are no central places for people to gather, so [tailgating] is a random affair." The "main tailgaters" congregate at the Eastern Market, a farmer's market "several blocks away" that offers tailgate spaces for $30 a game. If the barbecue, Jell-O shots and football tossing aren't enough of a draw, you likely will have to find a spot among the "small enclaves of civilization sitting around small fires and cooking meat at abandoned lots or among burned-out buildings -- kinda like Mad Max."
5 out of 10
Roy Williams :: David Bergman/SI
Record through Week 9
Players Worth Watching
Roy Williams (WR), Ernie Sims (LB), Calvin Johnson (WR)
8 out of 10
"Ford Field is a gem," agree many when asked about the Lions 5-year-old home. An old warehouse that comprises most of the southern side of the building provides a "retro look" while helping the stadium "blend into the surrounding area," incorporating some of the historic buildings that were removed to make space for the facility." In the southeast corner of the warehouse, a glass wall at the end of a seven-story atrium "allows so much natural light in you don't feel like you're in a dome" while reminding "everyone that Detroit does indeed have a skyline." "Although seats "are a little too far away from the field" and "uncomfortably close together," "concourses remain clear and wide enough for cattle to clear after games." And "street lamps and a cobblestone walkway" add a "village-type feel to the lower level concourse," where a series of food kiosks and gift shops can be found. As "the entire stadium is open to itself," "you can see the field" "from all the lower-level food vendors" "or walking up to the second level in most areas." Though some feel "there isn't a giant pirate ship or Roman colonnades," Ford Field "has a definite Detroit flair."
9 out of 10
"Unlike stadiums in Philly, New Jersey, Washington or Dallas, Ford Field is not a 'destination' stadium where there's nothing else around but the stadium." "Comerica Park is across the street," as is the "Hockeytown Café, which is a great place to hang out on the balcony and watch people enter and leave the stadium." A few other bars and restaurants" are within walking distance," and the "Greektown Casino is right down the street." With the famed Fox Theatre and the Orchestra Hall also nearby, the neighborhood is "one of the nicer parts of Detroit." But though "the area around the stadium has been slowly renovated and is definitely better than it once was, there is still a lot of poverty and blight all around." "The immediate area is fine; just watch your step once you're four or five blocks from the stadium, depending on the direction you walk."
8 out of 10
As one fan wrote, "Ford Field is one of the few things the Lions can be proud of." Yet for all of the amenities and unique architecture the Lions' $500 million home provides, it can't give fans what they want above all -- a team that at least contends for the playoffs. Glass atriums and pulled pork sandwiches can't prevent the notion that "you really haven't lived until you hear the sound of 65,000 hearts break at once when the Lions find a new way to lose a game." But there are worse fates, like watching the Lions lose each year in an antiseptic dome in a depressed factory town 40 minutes outside of Detroit. And though the Lions likely won't be heading to a Super Bowl anytime soon, Ford Field seems destined to be the template from which an entire new generation of football stadiums are built, from Indianapolis to Dallas.