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Super Bowl may put wraps on old eyesores

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Super Bowl may put wraps on old eyesores

Plan would make buildings billboards

May 26, 2004



Many of Detroit's blighted downtown buildings could be turned into giant billboards during Super Bowl week 2006 under a plan to wrap them in screens carrying advertising and promotional messages.

The goal is twofold: To cover up some of the eyesores that mar downtown and to promote a more festive atmosphere when an estimated 100,000 out-of-towners visit Detroit for the National Football League's championship game Feb. 5, 2006.

The wrappings would be similar to one Ford Motor Co. has on its world headquarters in Dearborn showing a multistory image of the new F-150 pickup and one it had last year to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Susan Sherer, executive director of Detroit's Super Bowl XL Host Committee, said the plan, still in its infant stages of discussion, is one way of dealing with Detroit's problem of abandoned and deteriorated buildings. In a separate effort, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration is promoting its Clean, Safe, Beautiful strategy of streetscape improvements, demolition of outdated structures and giving grants to owners to fix up facades.

Sherer acknowledged that wrapping blighted buildings might evoke memories of the city's move in the 1980s to put awnings on vacant eyesores in an attempt to hide blight before big events. But she said the move is no different than a family cleaning up its house for visitors.

"We are having a party. Somebody's coming to your house. Your house is presented in a different way because you're having company," she said.

Blighted buildings won't be the only ones to be wrapped. Ford Field as well as Cobo Center and selected area hotels also could have wraps and decorations.

Wrapping everything from skyscrapers to shopping malls has gained popularity as a promotional tool in recent years. Ford, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group have used the marketing tactic. Chrysler not long ago put a multistory image of its PT Cruiser on its Auburn Hills headquarters.

Across the nation, buildings have been wrapped with objects such as giant American flags, corporate logos and the faces of sports celebrities. Some of the wrappings cover thousands of square feet but do not block the view from inside the building. The biggest and boldest ones can be visible more than a mile away.

"Wrapping buildings now is a big way to get a message out," Sherer said.

The host committee also is thinking about installing large TV screens on some buildings to broadcast messages in much the same way that screens define Times Square in New York.

Some of the messages carried on the screens or wrappings would be commercial. But other messages could promote Detroit. Sherer is toying with an idea to wrap a building with the faces of Detroiters who are volunteering during Super Bowl week.

"How cool would it be to show all of the faces of our community?" she asked.

A big question is how to pay for the building wraps and screens - though the cost is not known. Some money might come out of the host committee's nearly $15-million budget.

The rest might come from corporate donations. The question, Sherer says, is "What can we afford, and if we can't afford it as a host committee, how can we accomplish it anyway?"

A lot of issues remain to be resolved. Among others, the host committee would need to coordinate any advertising messages with the NFL, which controls advertising connected with the Super Bowl.

Contact JOHN GALLAGHER at 313-222-5173 or

[email protected]

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Perhaps they should have put these wrappings on the Statler and Madison-Lennox? The city is in such a hurry to remove vacant structures that could be rehabilitated. The wrappings are great to preserve their life a bit longer in case redevelopment comes along. I wonder if Illitch would let this be done on the ML, or if he'll just find a way to tear it down before the Superbowl.

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Actually that was my thought exactly. Put them on the Statler & ML. The Statler is a massive building in a prominent location, so it would be perfect. The ML is probably less suited to something like this, but it could still work & it is also along a major road.

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