Sports in Detroit

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Detroit, Michigan is home to four professional American sports teams. It is one of twelve cities in the United States to have teams from the four major North American sports.

All but one of the area's teams compete within the city of Detroit. There are three active major sports venues within the city: 41,782-seat Comerica Park (home of the baseball team Detroit Tigers), 65,000-seat Ford Field (home of the football team Detroit Lions), and 20,066-seat Joe Louis Arena (home of the ice hockey team Detroit Red Wings). Detroit is known for its avid hockey fans. Interest in the sport has given the city the moniker "Hockeytown." In 2008, the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park reported 3.2 million visitors with a 98.6 percent attendance rate.[1]

The area's other major venue is The Palace of Auburn Hills, in the suburban community of Auburn Hills. This 22,076-seat arena is home to the Detroit Pistons of the NBA. It was also home to the WNBA's Detroit Shock from the team's formation in 1998 until its move to Tulsa, Oklahoma after the 2009 season.

In college sports, the University of Detroit Mercy has a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I program, and Wayne State University has both NCAA Division I and II programs. The NCAA football Motor City Bowl is held at Ford Field each December. In addition, the sports teams of the University of Michigan are located in Ann Arbor, within an hour's drive of much of the Detroit metropolitan area.

Major league sports[edit]

Ford Field before Super Bowl XL.
Club League Sport Venue (capacity) Founded Titles
Detroit Lions NFL American football Ford Field (65,000) 1930 4 [n 1]
Detroit Tigers MLB Baseball Comerica Park (41,500) 1894 4
Detroit Pistons NBA Basketball The Palace (21,200) 1941 3
Detroit Red Wings NHL Hockey Joe Louis Arena (20,000) 1926 11
  1. ^ The Lions have not won any Super Bowls, but were NFL champions four times (1935, 1952, 1953, 1957) in the pre Super Bowl era.
Interior of Joe Louis Arena.
Interior of the Palace of Auburn Hills.

On July 12, 2005, Comerica Park hosted 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and Ford Field hosted Super Bowl XL on February 5, 2006. Comerica Park hosted games 1 and 2 of the 2006 World Series, as well as games 3 and 4 of the 2012 World Series.

The Palace held NBA Finals games 3, 4 and 5 in both 2004 and 2005, and also hosted all but two of the Shock's WNBA Finals home games in their four Finals appearances (championships in 2003, 2006, and 2008, plus a losing appearance in 2007). The two exceptions were the title-clinching victories in 2006 and 2008, which both took place elsewhere due to scheduling conflicts—Joe Louis Arena in 2006 and the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center in Ypsilanti in 2008.

In addition, the 2013 NHL Winter Classic was played on January 1, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

City of Champions (1930s)[edit]

Detroit was given the name "City of Champions" in the 1930s, for a series of successes both in individual and in team sport. The Detroit Lions won the National Football League championship in 1935. The Detroit Tigers won the American League pennant in 1934 and again in 1935, subsequently winning the World Series in 1935. The Detroit Red Wings won the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup in 1936 and 1937.[2][3] This meant Detroit featured the defending champions in the NFL, NHL and MLB simultaneously from April 11, 1936 through October 5, 1936 -- something no other city has ever accomplished.

In individual sports, Gar Wood (a native Detroiter) won the Harmsworth Trophy for unlimited powerboat racing on the Detroit River in 1931. In the following year, Eddie "the Midnight Express" Tolan, a black sprinter who had graduated from Detroit's Cass Technical High School in 1927, won the 100- and 200-meter races and two gold medals at the 1932 Summer Olympics. Boxer Joe Louis, who came to Detroit when he was 12 years old and started his professional career in the city, won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1937.

April 18, 2011 was the 75th anniversary of Champions Day in Michigan.[4]

College sports[edit]

The following table shows the NCAA Division I and Division II college sports programs in the metro Detroit area:

Team Division Conference Venue Location
Michigan Wolverines Division I (FBS) Big Ten Conference various, including Michigan Stadium and Crisler Arena Ann Arbor
Eastern Michigan Eagles Division I (FBS) Mid-American Conference various, including Rynearson Stadium
and EMU Convocation Center
Detroit Titans Division I Horizon League various, including Calihan Hall Detroit
Oakland Golden Grizzlies Division I The Horizon League various, including Athletics Center O'rena Rochester
Wayne State Warriors Division II Great Lakes various Detroit

On December 13, 2003, the largest verified crowd in basketball history (78,129) packed Ford Field to watch the University of Kentucky defeat Michigan State University, 79–74.[5] Ford Field hosted the Final Four of the 2009 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.

The Frozen Four, the term for the semifinals and final of the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament, was held at Ford Field on April 8 and 10, 2010.


Annual Gold Cup Polo tournament - held at Word of Faith in Southfield.
Comerica Park 2007
Ford Field next to Comerica Park.

Detroit has bid to host Summer Olympic Games more often than any other city which has not yet hosted, participating in International Olympic Committee elections for the 1944 (placing 3rd, behind bid winner London), 1952 (5th place), 1956 (4th place), 1960 (3rd place), 1964 (2nd place), 1968 (2nd place) and 1972 (4th place) Games.

Oakland Hills Country Club, located in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Township, has hosted numerous high-profile golf events. It has hosted the U.S. Open six times, most recently in 1996; the PGA Championship three times, most recently in 2008; the U.S. Senior Open in 1981 and 1991; the U.S. Amateur in 2002; and the Ryder Cup in 2004.

The Detroit Marathon is also organized annually in the city, usually held in October.

Detroit is home to the Detroit Indy Grand Prix. The race took place on the streets of downtown Detroit from 1982 until 1988, and then from 1989 (when the sanction moved from Formula One to IndyCars) at Belle Isle until now. The race was not held from 2002−2006.

The Virginia Slims of Detroit was a WTA Tour women's tennis tournament held from 1972 to 1983, which featured top ranked players such as Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

The UFC 9 mixed martial arts event was held at Cobo Arena in 1996 and UFC 123 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2010.

The Professional Bowlers Association Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour holds the Motor City Classic at Taylor Lanes in the suburb of Taylor.

The suburb of Southfield hosts the annual Gold Cup Polo tournament at Word of Faith International Christian Center, formerly known as Duns Scotus College.[6]

The city hosted the Red Bull Air Race in 2008 on the International Riverfront.

Water sports[edit]

Sailboat racing is a major sport in the Detroit area. Lake Saint Clair is home to many yacht clubs which host regattas. Bayview Yacht Club, the Detroit Yacht Club, Crescent Sail Yacht Club, Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, The Windsor Yacht Club, and the Edison Boat Club each participate in and are governed by the Detroit Regional Yacht-Racing Association or DRYA. Detroit is home to many One-Design fleets including North American 40s, Cal 25s, Cuthbertson and Cassian 35s, Crescent Sailboats, Express 27s, J 120s, J 105, and Flying Scots. The Crescent Sailboat, NA-40, and the L boat were designed and built exclusively in Detroit. Detroit also has a very active and competitive junior sailing program.

Since 1904, the city has been home to the American Power Boat Association Gold Cup unlimited hydroplane boat race, held annually on the Detroit River near Belle Isle.[7] Since 1916, the city has been home to Unlimited Hydroplane racing, held annually (with exceptions) on the Detroit River near Belle Isle. Often, the hydroplane boat race is for the APBA Challenge Cup, more commonly known as the Gold Cup (first awarded in 1904, created by Tiffany) which is the oldest active motorsport trophy in the world.[8]



Club Sport League Venue Location
Detroit Indy Grand Prix Auto racing IRL Belle Isle Park Detroit
Gold Cup Hydroplane racing APBA Detroit River Detroit


Club Sport League Venue Location
Detroit City Football Club Soccer NPSL Cass Technical High School Detroit
Detroit Derby Girls Roller derby WFTDA Masonic Temple Detroit
Detroit Tradesmen Rugby Club Rugby union USA Rugby Glenn W. Levey Middle School Detroit
Detroit rugby league team Rugby league AMNRL N/A Detroit
Detroit Wolfetones Gaelic Football Gaelic Football Gaelic Athletic Association Flodin Park Detroit

Former teams[edit]

Club League Venue Founded Ended Fate of team Titles in
Detroit Wolverines National League Baseball Recreation Park 1881 1888 Team folded 1
Detroit Lightning MISL Cobo Arena 1979 1980 Team folded 0
Detroit Drive AFL Arena Football Joe Louis Arena 1988 1993 Team folded 4
Detroit Turbos MILL Indoor Lacrosse Joe Louis Arena 1989 1994 Team folded 1
Detroit Rockers NPSL Indoor Soccer Joe Louis Arena/
Compuware Arena/
The Palace of Auburn Hills
1990 2001 Team and League folded 1
Detroit Neon/Safari CISL Indoor Soccer The Palace of Auburn Hills 1994 1997 Team folded 0
Detroit Vipers IHL Hockey The Palace of Auburn Hills 1994 2001 Team and League folded 1
Detroit Fury AFL Arena Football The Palace of Auburn Hills 2001 2004 Team folded 0
Detroit Ignition MISL/XSL Indoor Soccer Compuware Arena 2006 2009 League folded 1
Detroit Cougars NASL Soccer * Tiger Stadium 1968 1968 Team folded 0
Detroit Express NASL Soccer Pontiac Silverdome 1978 1981 Washington Diplomats 0
Detroit Express ASL Soccer Pontiac Silverdome 1981 1984 League folded 1
Detroit Shock WNBA Basketball The Palace of Auburn Hills 1998 2009 Dallas Wings 3
Detroit Demolition WPF Football Livonia Franklin High School 2002 2011 Suspended play 5
Michigan Panthers USFL Football Pontiac Silverdome 1983 1984 Merged with the Oakland Invaders 1

* In 1967, Detroit was selected as one of the cities to adopt a European professional soccer club in a bid to promote the game Stateside. The event was planned to coincide with Europe's off/close season when the teams would have otherwise been dormant for the summer. Detroit was represented by the Northern Irish team Glentoran, playing as the Detroit Cougars.



Detroit has two main radio stations broadcasting sports in the metro-detroit area, 97.1fm and 105.1fm. Also, there are several podcasts dedicated to covering all things related to Detroit Sports. The most popular being the Detroit Sports Podcast, which has garnered acclaim due to great guests as well as knowledgeable and passionate hosts.[citation needed] DocNJock have produced weekly shows since 09/2013 and are one of the top podcasts in the area.


Ford Field hosted WrestleMania 23 in Ford Field on April 1, 2007. The Palace of Auburn Hills held NCAA Division I Wrestling Tournament Finals on March 15–17, 2007. In 2007, Detroit hosted World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)'s WrestleMania 23 which attracted 80,103 fans to Ford Field; the event marking the twentieth anniversary of WrestleMania III which drew a reported 93,173 to the Pontiac Silverdome in nearby Pontiac, Michigan in 1987. WWE has also held three of the annual Survivor Series events in Detroit with the 1991, 1999, and 2005 pay-per-views emanating from Joe Louis Arena, as well as Vengeance 2002. Detroit also hosted the returning March 18, 2006 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event on March 18, 2006 and numerous episodes of the weekly Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown telecasts since 1994 and 1999, respectively.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ MLB Attendance Report - 2008.ESPN. Retrieved on May 25, 2009.
  2. ^ Detroit News.
  3. ^ Visit Detroit
  4. ^ Bring Back Champions Day Campaign
  5. ^ History.
  6. ^ Southfield Gold Cup Polo. (July 21, 2000). PRNewswire. Retrieved on January 19, 2008.
  7. ^ History. The Detroit APBA Gold Cup
  8. ^ see History. The Detroit APBA Gold Cup. Retrieved January 24, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]