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Auto show likely to extend run in '06

By R.J. King / The Detroit News

DETROIT The 2006 North American International Auto Show will likely be extended so 120,000 visitors to Detroit?s Super Bowl that year can sample the city?s horsepower might.

National Football League officials, who host and oversee the annual Super Bowl extravaganza, toured this years auto show and came away extremely impressed, said Roger S. Penske, chairman of the Detroit Super Bowl XL host committee. He led the tour earlier this month.

When the NFL was here, we talked about the logistics of tearing down part of the auto show (at Cobo Center) and adding the NFL Experience, an entertainment and sports area for families, Penske told The Detroit News.

We plan to use all of Cobo for Super Bowl activities, and in some cases the two-story displays at the auto show will be used for the NFL Experience. Children and adults will be able to punt, pass or kick a football and really have a lot of fun.

This years Super Bowl is Sunday in Houston.

NFL officials plan to return to Detroit by April to approve plans for hosting the 2006 game at Ford Field, Penske said. City planners project 120,000 people will visit Detroit for the game.

Detroits Super Bowl committee plans to turn downtown into a winter wonderland during the week before the championship game, set for Feb. 5, 2006.

Activities will include ice skating exhibitions, concerts, ice carving, light displays and snowboarding and skiing demonstrations.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the committee will show off plans Thursday for hosting the Super Bowl. The program, titled Detroit Signature Wintertime Event, will be held outside Ford Field.

During Super Bowl week, numerous downtown entertainment venues such as the Fox Theatre, State Theatre and Detroit Opera House will host musical events, fashion shows and other activities, Penske said.

We still have to get the green light from the NFL, but I know the official car of the 2006 Super Bowl will play a part at Cobo and the NFL Experience, Penske said.

Richard Genthe, president of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which hosts the annual auto show, said initial discussions with automakers about extending the 2006 auto show were positive. The 2006 show is scheduled for Jan. 8-22.

There will be some logistical hurdles to overcome, but we can do it, said Genthe, chairman of the 2006 auto show and president of **** Genthe Chevrolet in Southgate.

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