By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

CBS DETROIT – Detroit Lions fans willing to drop $9,500 can have a season’s worth of game day experiences unlike any other with a membership in the new MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club.

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The Lions have renovated the space around the team’s locker room at Ford Field to create a luxury setting in which about 120 people – 50 guests of the MGM Grand and 70 club members – can watch players exit and enter the locker room before the game, at halftime and after the game.

Rendering of MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club. (Photo provided by the Detroit Lions)

Rendering of MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club. (Photo provided by the Detroit Lions)

Club members will also have early entry to the stadium and unlimited food and beverages, though alcohol is not included.

AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys play, has a club that allows fans to watch up close as players prepare to run out from the tunnel, but the new club at Ford Field is expected to place fans next to the action earlier in the pregame process and in an even more intimate way.

“When guys are getting themselves pumped up, when they’re spending time together, that’s still a very private setting,” Lions vice president of corporate partnerships Wade Martin said in a phone interview. “In our case, that’s going to be showcased to our fans.”

One would imagine the football folks might not be thrilled about this development, but Martin said the increased visibility sends a positive message about the Lions.

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“I think it’s a testament to the organization and the confidence we have in what we’re doing, whether that’s Coach Caldwell or our actual players and the folks surrounding the football team,” Martin said. “The locker room is still a sacred place, and the guys, once they’re in the locker room, they’re going to have the privacy that any athlete should have, but I think for us, the transparency that this reveals with our players in a setting that has never been a transparent setting just kind of goes to show the evolution of our organization.”

Rendering of MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club. (Photo provided by the Detroit Lions)

Rendering of MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club. (Photo provided by the Detroit Lions)

The club will be fully operational for the first preseason game of the 2015 season. After spending time in the club before the game, MGM Grand guests will go up to the MGM Grand suite, while club members will head to their seats, which were created by extending the lower bowl in the west end zone.

“I don’t believe there’s anybody in the league that has this,” director of corporate communications Ben Manges said in a phone interview. “Obviously the Cowboys have, they have a tunnel that goes through, they have an area that goes through their club, that the players walk through when they go out to the field, but you don’t see that moment when the doors open and the players come out of the locker room.

“I’ve been to every stadium, and I have not another NFL team with something like this,” Manges added.

Manges expects the new configuration to provide more excitement not just for fans but also for players.

“When you’re walking out of the tunnel onto the field at Dallas, there’s a really cool feeling because of that premium luxury space that they have, and it really gives you that big-game feel,” Manges said. “You’re going out on the field, and you’ve got people right there watching you, some of them are hitting the glass, it really gives you an adrenaline rush.

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“This gives us that same – it puts us in that same tier,” Manges added. “When our players are walking out of the locker room, they’re going to feel … that big-game feel … more so than they already do. Instead of it happening whenever they’ve run out of the tunnel, it’s going to happen right when they’re coming off the locker room.”