Detroit courting X Games

Imagine a near-future Detroit in which we had a summer bringing in tens of thousands of festival goers to see a mixture of extreme sports, film and music events. While this seems like a far fetched dream, in reality, this is becoming more and more of a real possibility.

In a plan proposed by Detroit residents Kevin Krease, 27, and Garret Koehler, 26, and financially supported by Quicken Loans, the city is attempting to attract the attention of the ESPN X Games. Projected for the summers of 2014 and 2016, the extreme sports festival is gathering a number of possible cities to host their events. Among these possible locations are Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth, Texas, Long Beach, Minneapolis, Montreal, New Orleans, Pasadena, Philadelphia, and, of course, Detroit.

What is so exciting about this event, though, is much more than a new skatepark. It is an opportunity for a new flow of investment of both monetary and cultural value. In terms of monetary value, the X Games is expected to bring 50 million dollars to whichever city it decides to locate itself in. In terms of the cultural significance, Krease and Koehler speak of their vision to turn this opportunity into a cultural event somewhat similar to South by Southwest, an event that takes place in Austin, TX each year and includes musical acts, food and film.

While Detroit undoubtedly would like to host a global event such as the X Games, there does need to be the thoughtful question of if the city can even compete. As Krease and Koehler promote the bid through the means of viral media, the pair attempt to sell the city to ESPN by means of online petitions and teaser trailers of what the Detroit X Games could look like. In regards to these questions, too, Detroit residents point to the aspects of the city which can simultaneously lure and repel potential investors.

While many of the other cities have enormous stadiums which are often larger and more well kept than Detroit’s, this could work to the Detroit’s advantage. It is precisely because Detroit is less populated and more in debt that the X Games would be able to close down streets for event use. In addition, the space that Detroit has is malleable and well suited to the flexible planning. Referring to this space, Deane Swanson, senior director of content strategy for the Global X Games, speaks to the nature of the festival by saying, “We need options, we need flexibility. The sports we’re offering today, I guarantee you by the time this event comes around they’re going to change. We have to adjust and the city needs to adjust.”

At the same time, the attraction, and even “the hipness” of Detroit can be vividly seen in the rising popularity of “ruin porn,” a style of photography that centers on the fallen and decrepit buildings of unkempt cities. In this, young crowds can often be aesthetically attracted while the investors can be deterred from spending their money in such an environment.

The selected city will be announced at the end of April by ESPN. Kreaser and Koehler continue to collect signatures for Detroit X Games at their website