DETROIT – The atmosphere was enthusiastic. Maybe overly enthusiastic.
It’s been a little over four years since Detroit was selected as the host city of Super Bowl XL. Yesterday, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Gov. Jennifer Granholm wanted to make it clear they were proud of what the city has accomplished.
“We want to reintroduce Detroit to the world,” Kilpatrick said at the Super Bowl welcoming ceremonies yesterday afternoon at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.
He said the preparation for Sunday’s game has served “as a catalyst to move Detroit in a direction and a way we haven’t moved in years.”
He cited 70 businesses that are new to Detroit since Super Bowl preparations began. Four years ago, Kilpatrick said he wanted to create 50 new businesses in downtown Detroit, and he said people thought he was crazy. The city has also started more than 35 new restaurants, according to Kilpatrick, who joked that he had obviously tried them all.
Detroit is trying desperately to kick its bad-boy imagine, and Kilpatrick and Granholm joked that Jimmy Kimmel is welcome.
“This is a 300-year-old city with attitude and grit,” Granholm said. “It’s got music, it’s got sports, and it’s got cars. What more could you want?”
It was clear from yesterday’s events that Detroit no longer wants to be known as a city of riots and brawls. But it also has a separate image problem, especially among football fans. The last time Detroit hosted the Super Bowl, in 1982, the city was hit with a big ice storm the day of the game, and temperatures dropped as low as 12 degrees with a wind chill of 27 below zero. The city struggled with traffic problems all weekend because of the weather.
But forecasters are predicting better weather this year. The forecast calls for unseasonably warm temperatures for the entire week, but flurries are still possible. Kilpatrick practically guaranteed there would not be a repeat. He said if it snows, the city is ready to clean it up before it even hits the ground.
If the weather should turn ugly, the city of Windsor, Canada has agreed to shoulder part of the workload, even agreeing to allow snow to be transported across the river to the adjacent city.
Kilpatrick described the Super Bowl as a “two-nation destination.” Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis spoke along with Kilpatrick and Granholm at the welcoming ceremony.
“When we first thought of the idea of a two-nation Super Bowl, the international Super Bowl, we viewed our role at Windsor as, ‘We can bring Canada to the Super Bowl,’ ” Francis said.
Francis said the two cities were trying hard to make sure the transportation back and forth across the Canadian border was done as seamlessly as possible for those guests who want to spend time in both cities. For example, passengers could be checked for the proper citizenship documentation prior to boarding buses to Detroit or Windsor.
Security is obviously a big issue for both cities’ mayors and police.
Detroit Chief of Police Ella Bully-Cummings said the city would have an extra 3,000 security personnel on-hand for the Super Bowl week. She wouldn’t comment on any specific plans or possible threats, but she said the Super Bowl is a Level-1 national security event.
Police officers in Detroit will not be granted leave from Feb. 1 to Feb. 5, and they will work 12-hour shifts to keep a larger-than-normal police presence. The extra hours will require overtime, but Bully-Cummings said it would come out of the federal funding the city has received from the Department of Homeland Security.
She added that much of the manpower had to be used for traffic control, and she encouraged visitors to use the Park and Ride system and walk around downtown Detroit. There will be no downtown parking after Feb. 1, and Bully-Cummings said they were towing cars very quickly.
Granholm appeared even more excited than the two mayors. She described Detroit’s can-do spirit as “a virus that has infected tens of thousands to volunteer their time and their talent.”
According to Kilpatrick, the city has more than 10,000 volunteers lined up for the week’s festivities. He said that when he went to Jacksonville, Fla., for last year’s Super Bowl, he was amazed by the city’s 8,000-plus volunteers and vowed to surpass that number.