You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor businesses already preparing for 2013 NHL Winter Classic

By Pete Cunningham


The 2008 NHL Winter Classic was played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

Photo by Falling Heavens | Wikimedia Commons

The 2013 NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium may be six months away, but preparations are already getting under way by Ann Arbor businesses.

The New Year’s Day outdoor hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs is expected to attract the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game, and the NHL has said it wants to break the stadium’s record attendance of 114,804.

Local retailers, restaurants and hotels are adjusting holiday plans in order to capitalize on the event.

winter-classic-logos.jpg file photo

In an email from Main Street Area Association Executive Director Maura Thomson, local businesses are being urged to “start thinking about New Year’s Day and plan accordingly.”

"We just want this to be a great experience for all the visitors," Thomson said.

Recent Winter Classic host cities Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia reported spinoff revenue of between $22 to $36 million, according to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For some, the planning began in February when the University of Michigan first agreed to lease the stadium for the annual event. For the first time in the restaurant's 17-year history, Arbor Brewing Company will be open on New Year’s Day.

“We’re excited to just to be open on that day and for the opportunity,” said Casey Hyde, general manager of the brew pub on East Washington Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

Hyde said the difficult part of restricting staff vacation on one of the rare days that Arbor Brewing is normally closed is offset by the excitement of the expected business. Hyde said the company is considering brewing a special beer for the event and the Canadian visitors it is bound to attract.

“Our kitchen loves to come up with new stuff, so we’re excited,” she said.

“Personally, I would rather be closed and be able to go away with my family and have a break,” said Elmo Morales, owner of Elmo’s Main Street T-Shirts. “But we’ll be ready to capture that business.” Though Michigan Stadium will hold 40,000 more fans than any previous Winter Classic venue, some typical revenue-driving events won't be held in Ann Arbor. The annual alumni game and minor and college hockey games -- like the Great Lakes Invitational -- will be played in Detroit, as opposed to centralized around the game’s venue like in the previous five years of the event.

The split venue presents a unique challenge for Ann Arbor’s businesses, which is why the MSAA has formed a committee to explore planning local events.

“We’re going to consult other cities but (because of the split venue) it’s a different animal.” Thomson said.

Regardless, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon has stated that he expects the spinoff revenue for the game to be greater than the $14 million generated at home football games.

Hotels are treating the game -- which will be played on a Tuesday -- like they would treat a Michigan football weekend against a marquee opponent like Ohio State or Notre Dame.

Holiday Inn, 3600 Plymouth Road, will require a minimum two-day stay, which is not typical around the New Year’s holiday. It will increase rates as well.

“Rates will be elevated for supply and demand and that will be typical across the board,” said Holiday Inn general manager Joseph Sefcovic, who is also president of the Washtenaw County Hotel/Motel Association. “People are just applying the football game logic.”

Unlike football Saturdays, though, there won’t be a built-in student population or as large of a local contingent of fans. A different approach to parking will be necessary because of this, which is why a separate committee was formed by the MSAA solely to address transportation.

“This is in the infancy of the infancy stages,” Thomson said. “But we’re getting out ahead of this.”

Contact Pete Cunningham at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Lets Get Real

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 10:44 a.m.

Raise those rates, Holiday Inn. Gouge those visitors from Canada. How much more does it cost you to wash the sheets and clean the room than on any other day? I'm surprised you don't have a 4 day minimum, requiring F,S,Su, and M night stays. Why not? Let's really get 'em. Perhaps HI should following Arbor Brewing's lead who is brewing a special beer for the occasion. With the increased margin, perhaps you should be thinking of doing something for the customer with the extra money instead of just extorting it from them. I hope they find some of the local places to stay rather where the money will stay locally rather than the chain hotels who send the money off to the franchise. I vote for Webers, Campus, Bell Tower, Regent, and all of the locally owned Bed and Breakfasts!


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

When and where do tickets go on sale?

Tom Todd

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

it will probably be 60 degrees that day.


Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

I am surprised that the local businesses are using a business model that does not work? ""Rates will be elevated for supply and demand" According to the regime, these business owners are as guilty of "GREED" as those Wall Street guys! What is worst is that they will live among us! Is Ann Arbor turning Republikan?


Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

Um....until the last election that elected the wonderful Hiefje, Ann Arbor WAS Republican led....But I have zero probems with lopcal businesses making as much money as they possibly can from our tourist visitors....


Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

"Is Ann Arbor turning Republican?" In order for Ann Arbor to turn Republican then, by definition, the greedy business owners are currently demoKrats.


Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

The only drawback of this whole thing is that two mediocre teams will face one another. I'm glad the community will get an influx of money. We can see what it's like if you're in a southern town that gets a bowl game.

Kai Petainen

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Craig... it could be worse than that. One year, I remember getting a tickett as there was less than 1 inch of snow on the ground. The city declared that it was a snow day and I was ticketed -- pretty pathetic as I come from Northern Ontario. Now, being in January... it creates an ideal situation for the city to declare a snow day and ticket people.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

Don't forget the tow truck companies. With the influx of all these out of towners unfamiliar with the "nuances" of Ann Arbor parking I'm sure business will boom. I imagine all vacations are cancelled and all hands on board. i might suggest they even procure a large parking lot somewhere for the event. Maybe MDOT can construct the fence.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

"....are contractually obligated to respond within 20 minutes to impound cars or clear accident and disabled vehicles from the roadway. " which helps explain why I have to take a half day or more off work and wait 4-6 hours for a tow truck to come to my house after being told 45 minutes to an hour. ....repeatedly. On an average sunny summer day.


Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Craig and Grande Bill, Many of the out of towners will be Canadians whom, by personal observation, are more likely to follow the laws. I don't expect to see many Canadians illegally parked or driving under the influence. That will be an interesting cultural statistic, though. I would like to peruse the game-day police blotter. Were more parking tickets given to American plates or Canadian plates? Were more dui's given to Canadians or Americans? Were more minors in possession American or Canadian? Were more fights American or Canadian (I actually think this will be a tie, with the 2 countries fighting each other).

Fat Bill

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

You bet everybody will be on duty Craig; you are only focused on the parking enforcement aspect of this issue. Remember that during an event of this magnitude, the population in the area essentially doubles. In addition to the parking issues, we would expect to see an increase in accidents, impounds (dui arrests), jump starts, lockouts, and due to the likelihood of inclement weather a spike in light- to heavy-duty winch-out requests. The three main tow companies in Ann Arbor are "para-public safety agencies" in that they are contractually obligated to respond within 20 minutes to impound cars or clear accident and disabled vehicles from the roadway. Unlike police and fire departments, the tow companies aren't subsidized by taxpayer dollars to perform the service. To maintain that level of service with up to date equipment 24 hours per day, 365.25 days per year requires a certain level of cash flow; in this model the users are the sole provider of this funding. As most tow company employees will lose a holiday they normally receive, one can only hope that they have something to do...