Shredding it up in Motown
Two 20-somethings carry the hope of a metropolis on their backs in an effort to bring the X Games to Detroit.
Published: June 26, 2013
The story of Detroit’s bid for the X Games began with Ian Studders, a good friend of Krease and Koehler from college at Miami University. Studders, who currently works at Wayne State University, heard about ESPN’s plans for global expansion of the X Games and thought the games positively belong in Detroit — thinking this was something the city could really take ownership of.
Studders shared this vision with Krease. After a lot of research, this past fall Krease contacted the ESPN consulting group managing the global expansion of the X Games. They put him in touch with ESPN executive director Jack Weinert, who just so happened to be in Detroit for another conference at the Cobo Center.
Krease, 27, born and raised in Grosse Pointe, and currently a resident in Midtown’s Park Shelton apartments, seized the opportunity and reached out to Weinert. He picked up Weinert at the Marriott hotel and took him for a tour of the city, including a visit to Astro Coffee in Corktown, where Weinert urged Krease to put together a Detroit bid.
Krease, who was enthused, had been thinking about a bid for the 2016 or 2017 summer games when Weinert told him the expansion would begin in 2014; the bid process would begin October of 2012, and the clock was ticking.
With Ian Studders busy with his full-time job at Wayne State, Krease reached out to Chicago native and 26-year-old Koehler, a college friend who’d been working in project management in Chicago. He wanted a project manager’s eyes to look at the opportunity, as Detroit’s qualified bid procedure for the X Games had begun.
Koehler came to Detroit in December and immediately got on board. His reaction: “I’m going to do this. This has got to happen in Detroit. There is no better city for the X Games.” He promptly quit his job at Groupon and moved here at the beginning of January 2013.
Krease and Koehler make up Action Sports Detroit LLC, the team behind the city’s bid for the X Games. Krease is founder and director. Koehler is managing partner. They do everything from cleaning the office to building financial models.
They have also had a lot of help. The Work Inc. put together the powerful video behind Detroit’s X Games bid. The event production management group Paxahau, which put on Movement, Detroit’s electronic music festival, as well as the Detroit Jazz Festival, has also been instrumental.
Perhaps no one has been of more help than Rock Ventures LLC, the company of local business titan Dan Gilbert, also owner of Quicken Loans Inc., the Cleveland Cavaliers, casinos in Ohio and Maryland, and now Detroit’s Greektown Casino Hotel too. Gilbert is providing funding and office space in the Compuware Building for Krease and Koehler.
Gilbert says of the X Games bid, “X Games Detroit is an outstanding fit for the city, the fans, ESPN and the games themselves. The core of Detroit is a young, diverse, edgy and gritty place. It matches up perfectly for the kind of feel that the X Games are looking to achieve. If we all get behind this effort Detroit can win the rights to host the X Games for three consecutive years beginning next summer. It would be another big confidence booster not only for Detroiters and the region but also for the international audience who will see Detroit in an authentic and exciting light.”
R.J. Wolney, director of business development at Rock Ventures, elaborates on Gilbert’s sentiments by adding, “This aligns with everything we’re trying to do down here — a Detroit where people can live, work and play.”
Wolney, who has been helping Krease and Koehler with building financial models to help support their efforts in convincing ESPN to choose Detroit, sees them as “an excited and energized pair of guys — very fitting with the entrepreneurial spirit here. ESPN has the opportunity to come in and be part of the amazing story of the revitalization of Detroit.”
Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president at ESPN, the network responsible for all aspects of the X Games franchise, has given Krease, Koehler and the city they are touting some hope by way of positive comments. He spoke from Barcelona about what he has seen from the Detroit bid: “We love their passion. They have some terrific ideas. We’ve been very happy with what they’ve shown so far. It is an interesting and passionate vision.”
Part of what Krease and Koehler have done well so far is harness the power of social media. Through Facebook and Twitter, their vision has been “… to create a movement that resonated with people who care about Detroit. Social media is a way to tell the story. It is all about creating a place for people to show their support for the city,” Koehler says.
Their Facebook page includes X Games Detroit photos and postings from followers. The name of their movement is #XG2D. On social media, they advertised an X Games Detroit event that was held April 20 in Eastern Market, at which 2,000 people showed up in support — and the seminal hardcore punk band Negative Approach played. The online community that supported the bid had become tangible.
The X Games are about sports, but they go beyond sports, as does Detroit’s vision for the games. Koehler explains: “More than anything, X Games is a celebration of the action sports lifestyle. We want to create a festival that embodies the ethos of action sports — all about action, including music, art and craftsmanship. It will be an urban festival anchored in sports, including an outdoor gallery and art creation space in Hart Plaza.” The potential of such a festival here seems limitless.
The Work Inc.’s video for X Games Detroit is, by all accounts, riveting material with visceral moving shots of action sports athletes and iconic Detroit city images. It brings to mind the rising of hope over despair.
The production company was an early partner with Action Sports. The principals had mutual friends and the partnership grew from one small meeting last February. According to Christopher Gruse, one of the Work’s five partners, Krease and Koehler let them run wild with the ideas they had for the video.
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