History Of Tailgating With The Lions
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Sure, everyone heads down to Eastern Market, the Vietnam Veterans of America on Woodward Avenue or one of the small private lots to tailgate now, but what was the drill in the past when football first came to Detroit?
In the Beginning
Reaching way back in history, the first games played by the Detroit Lions between 1934 and 1937 were at the University of Detroit Stadium. This was in the days of leather helmets and relatively skinny players. But it was not long before the Lions found another home and in 1938 they played their first game at what was at that time known as Briggs Stadium. It was not until 1961 that the venerable old ballpark on Michigan Avenue and Trumble Street was officially renamed Tiger Stadium.
From the first game in 1938 and for the next 36 years, the Lions played at Tiger Stadium with the final game taking place on November 28, 1974, a game which the team lost to the Denver Broncos.
Heading North to Pontiac
With the advent of domed stadiums, it was time for the Lions to move to a new home, not in Detroit, but in Pontiac at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Opening in 1975, the air-supported domed stadium provided a home for the team that offered a warm field, and for tailgaters, a massive parking area where they could celebrate before the game. Detroit Lions fans showed their immense dedication by making the 30-mile drive to the stadium for each home game. For the next 26 years, it was home to the team in good times and bad, offering seating for over 80,000 fans. A move made by the Detroit Tigers brought football back to the city once again.
Comerica Park and Ford Field
In the mid 1990s, it was decided that the Detroit Tigers needed a new home as did the Detroit Lions. Through the vision of Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and the Ford family, owners of the Detroit Lions, plans were made for a sports complex that would rival all others.
The ground breaking of the new Comerica Park took place in October of 1997 and in November of 1999, the first shovel made it into the dirt to begin construction on Ford Field. It would take three years of work to finish the stadium with the first regular season game being played by the Lions against the Green Bay Packers on September 22, 2002. The first year that the Lions played at Ford Field, they had a 3 and 13 season under coach Marty Mornhinweg and they lost their first game to the Packers by a score of 31 to 27. Despite the rough standings, the new stadium offered seating for 65,000 fans and up to 8,500 club seats and was packed for every game.
The next time you head down to tailgate at Ford Field, look at the people next to you and ask them if they know where the Lions played in 1937. When they say no, you can enrich them with the long history of the team.
Check out Tailgate Fan to keep the party going at tailgatefan.cbslocal.com.
Award winning freelance writer and photographer Lawrence DiVizio is based in Southeast Michigan and works to convey in words and images the world around us. His work can be found at Examiner.com.