“Our fans are incredibly passionate about our football team and the excitement surrounding the Lions is remarkable,” Ford said. “We obviously hope that we continue to make strides on the field and ultimately provide our fans with a championship.
“The team has worked very hard to make it to this point, and I know that our players and coaches are determined to go far beyond what we accomplished last season.
“We have built our most talented roster that we’ve had in several years, and players like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh are among the most outstanding players in the league,” Ford continued. “Championship teams are led by these types of players, especially at the quarterback position, and I am looking forward to seeing them lead our team this year.
“With our ability to score points and attack opponents, we will be exciting to watch on both offense and defense. I also think the depth we have at several positions will be an asset for us throughout the long season.
“Coach Schwartz, Martin, Tom, our coaching staff and player personnel department have all worked together to put several key pieces in place. Jim has done a tremendous job developing this team, and it helps that we’ve maintained consistency with our coaching staff and schemes ever since he was hired.
“While we are always looking to improve everything we do, I believe our team can deliver a very special season to our fans this year.”
To see Ford’s influence off the field, one has to look no further than Ford Field in downtown Detroit and the team’s headquarters and practice facility in Allen Park. Both are considered among the best respectively in all of sports and were shaped by Ford’s resolve for the Lions to be a leader in the NFL.
Ford’s dedication and commitment to the fans was never more evident than when he spearheaded the team’s stadium negotiations that led to the 1996 decision and announcement to build Ford Field. Due largely to his determination and perseverance, the Lions struck a deal with the City of Detroit and Wayne County that established the foundation for the Lions to return to downtown Detroit in 2002.
Ford’s vision of a downtown stadium had perhaps its finest moment to date when it played host to Super Bowl XL in February 2006. It received extraordinary reviews by the international community.
In addition to developing new homes for the team to practice and play, Ford played a vital role in Detroit’s bid for Super Bowl XL. Through his leadership, the Ford Family, the Lions and Ford Motor Company were integral in Detroit’s impressive hosting of Super Bowl XL that exceeded expectations. Overall, there was a $260 million economic impact generated by Super Bowl XL, including $100 million in downtown improvements, $10 million in emerging businesses—the most in Super Bowl history—and $6 million in the NFL/Boys & Girls Club Youth Education Town—the largest in the country.
Though satisfied with progress made so far by the development of Ford Field, Ford continues to push for the stadium to become an even greater benefit to the organization as well as the community and its economic growth.
“Two moments this past year will forever standout to me when I reflect on Ford Field and its impact on this team,” Ford said. “On Monday Night against the Bears, the advantage we had with that crowd and how disruptive our fans were proved just how important our home field advantage truly is. It was an extraordinary sight. You not only could hear our fans, but you could literally feel the impact of our fans.
“That game was quite special to our team, our family and the entire city. Detroit was the center of the sports world that evening and the Lions, Ford Field and the entire City of Detroit shined brightly for all to see.
“The second came in December when we clinched the playoffs and celebrated on our home field. I think it provided just a glimpse of what hopefully will be even bigger and exciting games for the Lions at Ford Field in the future.
“When you can match such a dynamic, fan-friendly environment with an exciting team and place the best fans in the world in that venue, much can be accomplished. It’s that success that we are all working to achieve.
“Through its first 10 seasons, Ford Field has delivered numerous times beyond just Lions games as one of the world’s premiere sports and entertainment venues. We’ve always strived to offer the best fan experience to anyone who has ever attended an event at Ford Field. No indoor stadium has ever hosted football, basketball, hockey, soccer and the other large-scale events as has Ford Field.
“We want to continue making Ford Field the most difficult place to play in the NFL for our opponents and one of the world’s best entertainment venues. By doing so, this will not only benefit this franchise, but it will continue operating as one of the key economic drivers to this region.”
Since the decision was made to move to downtown Detroit, Ford also wanted to provide a world-class practice facility to complement the team’s stadium project. The $36 million Allen Park facility, which opened in April 2002, has universally been identified as one of the best facilities in the NFL. Its state-of-the-art football facilities, including an indoor practice facility with a regulation-size field, provide the ideal training center for NFL players and coaches.
In Ford’s 17 years in his current role, he has helped the Lions take major steps forward on several fronts. Ford has strongly supported an active community outreach program which has been recognized as the best of any team in all of professional sports.
Through Ford’s support, Detroit Lions Charities, which has awarded nearly $6.2 million in total donations during its 22-year history, continues to serve Detroit and the State of Michigan. Featured among the Lions’ philanthropic efforts is the collaborative effort with Detroit Public Schools and Communities in Schools of Detroit to open the Detroit Lions Academy. The school, which opens its doors for its 12th year this fall, offers an alternative school environment for approximately 125 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.
Ford has been a significant supporter of the team’s contribution in numerous other community programs, such as the sponsorship of the Think Detroit PAL youth football program—one of the nation’s largest tackle football leagues. Over 3,200 kids from ages 8-14 participate in Think Detroit PAL Football each year.
Involvement in the community does not stop at the team’s community outreach and charitable contributions, as Ford also emphasizes the importance in growing the game of football and the development of youth. The Detroit Lions Youth Football program is one the most extensive youth sports programs operated by a professional sports team. From numerous youth camps held statewide to coaching clinics, the goal of the program is to impact children’s lives on and off the field through the game. Ford believes it is valuable to grow youth’s interest in football and assist in the development of youth coaches.
Under Ford’s direction, the team has launched one of the most aggressive business operations in all of sports. Many elements to this are derived primarily from events held at Ford Field and the benefits generated from both Lions games and other ancillary events. Ford ensures that every aspect of the team’s business operations ultimately focus on the impact they have on the Lions’ ability to win.
Over the years, Ford’s leadership has generated several key business initiatives. Allowing fans greater opportunities to attend Lions games has always been a priority for the Ford Family, and that includes offering several fan-friendly ticket options that enables a larger number of fans to experience the Lions and the NFL in-person.
In 2009, the team introduced comprehensive changes to the team’s brand that includes a new, fierce-looking logo and other unique branding elements. That same year the organization re-vamped the Lions merchandise operations with a strong emphasis on improving customer service.
Another area that Ford emphasizes progressive growth includes the digital and social media, which allows the team, through various mediums, to connect and communicate directly with its fans and to reach them on multiple platforms. Since Ford assumed his role with the club, the Lions became one of the first pro sports teams to launch its own website, Detroitlions.com.
The team also entered into a partnership with CBS Radio (formerly Infinity Broadcasting), a relationship it extended in 2009, for the Lions’ radio broadcast rights and started production on weekly radio and television shows that air throughout the season.
Beyond football events that range from the NFL all the way down to youth football, Ford Field hosts some of the largest sporting and entertainments events in the nation.
Ford Field has hosted two of the biggest events in the history of college athletics. In 2009, Ford Field hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, a first for downtown Detroit, which shattered tournament attendance records, provided the Metro Detroit area with a $30-50 million economic boost over the weekend and provided a number of community outreach initiatives that will have a lasting impact on the city of Detroit. An example of those outreaches was the newly-created legacy program that established early learning and literacy centers in the Detroit community. Ford Field was the host site for the Midwest Regional Finals in March 2008, and the event also broke NCAA Regional and preliminary round attendance records with over 57,000 people attending each session.
In April 2010, the focus was again back on Ford Field as Detroit hosted the 2010 NCAA Men’s Hockey Frozen Four. In doing so, Ford Field became the first venue in NCAA history to host the Final Four and the Frozen Four in back-to-back years. The Frozen Four at Ford Field generated record crowds and established a new hockey indoor world attendance record.
In other past roles within the NFL structure, Ford has served on the NFL’s Finance Committee and NFL Properties Committee.
Though football remains a passion for Ford, his father and his family, his top priority remains serving as Ford Motor Company’s Executive Chairman. His current role is a professional and personal commitment, as he leads the company founded by his great-grandfather, American automotive pioneer Henry Ford. A member of the Board of Directors since 1988, he assumed the role of Chairman of the Board January 1, 1999. He also served as Chief Executive Officer from October 2001 through September 2006. Additionally, he serves as Chairman of the Board’s Finance Committee and as a member of the Sustainability Committee.
Among his many outside leadership roles, he serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of The Henry Ford, Chairman of the Detroit Economic Club, a Member of the Board of Directors of the Business Leaders for Michigan and Chairman of the New Michigan Initiative Committee. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of eBay.
Born in Detroit in 1957, Ford is an avid fly fisherman and car enthusiast, enjoys playing hockey and tennis, and is a black belt in the martial art of Tae Kwon Do. In his spare time, Ford competes in pond hockey tournaments and his team has claimed the USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championship in past years. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University and a master of science degree in management as an Alfred P. Sloan fellow from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).