The first round of the 2015 NFL Draft kicks off tomorrow, Thursday April 30, and for the first time since 1964 the event will be held outside of New York City. The 2015 host city, Chicago, is absolutely buzzing with excitement for the event and the subsequent attention that has came along with it.
The Windy City is no stranger to being second-fiddle to New York (or Second City rather), so this is a big step by the NFL and it is great for the Midwest in general. Finally, the event can be enjoyed near the home of millions of fans not living on the East Coast.
Predictably, Chicago has been running billboards, signs, and ads all over the city to generate local interest in the event. Based on the vibe that I can feel walking around downtown Chicago, where I live, I believe the 2015 NFL Draft will be a huge success. This weekend is opening the door for the NFL to rotate the NFL Draft, much like the Super Bowl, between a handful of potential host cities.
The NFL Draft will never be the same. Out with the old, in with the new.
No longer will fans have to travel all the way to New York City to take in the event first hand. If Chicago handles the event without issue and hits its target visitors, which I’m predicting, it will open up the possibility of Los Angeles hosting the draft. My guess is that the NFL will make Los Angeles the host city the same offseason that it officially announces a new team (or two) will be heading to the city. Although Will Brinson of CBSSports.com has noted that L.A. isn’t the only city that will want to host the NFL Draft.
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Cities like Miami, New Orleans, and Atlanta will seemingly be in the running to someday host the event, too. All of those cities are great football towns with big enough populations to support the mayhem that is the NFL Draft.
Of course other cities like Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, and Dallas (North Texas) would seem to be in the running to potentially host the event as well.
Bryan Fischer of NFL.com has laid out some of the specific details about the NFL Draft in Chicago and they are pretty interesting. This draft appears to be the most fan-friendly in the history of the event — by far. The entire area that the city of Chicago is dedicating to the event will be called “Draft Town”. Original? Nah, but it does the job. Here is a rendering of the impressive fan-centric NFL Draft experience and some thoughts by David Matthews at DNAInfo.com/Chicago.
In “Draft Town” all 32 NFL franchises will have tents set up on Michigan Avenue (commonly referred to as the Magnificent Mile) in a specific area that will temporarily be known as “Selection Square”. In “Selection Square” fans will be able to find tables for their favorite teams with information and artifacts that celebrate the history of their team. There will be autographs, photo ops, and a Lombardi Trophy to drool over.
You can bet I’ll be there soaking in as much history as possible.
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
However, there is more to do than learn history about NFL franchises. For the entirety of draft weekend there will be other events for NFL fans to take part in at Grant Park and Congress Plaza (just east of Michigan Ave between downtown and Lake Michigan). Fans can run the 40-yard dash in a combine-like setup and each team will have former-players or ‘legends’ taking part in the outdoor festivities.
Although one of the coolest things is that each team’s picks will be relayed to the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, where the picks will be announced on national television, from the street-side tents.
For anyone that has gone to the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, you know how big of an event the NFL Draft is. That said, it cannot be denied that Chicago is doing more for the fans than has ever been done before. This is a sign of things to come for the draft; it will continue to be more of a fan-involved event. For that reason I think that the draft will begin to rotate around the country and, at the very least, rotate between New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles over the next few years.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
If this does happen, you can bet that fans in the south and lobbying to host the draft as well, and I hope their wish is granted. The NFL is the most popular sport in the country by a wide margin, and it’s about time that it focuses on the fans in its annual offseason mega-event known as the draft.
The fans deserve it, it helps the economy of the new potential host cities (not just New York City) and it’s good for the league, too. All regions of this country love the NFL, the draft should reflect that.
Thankfully fan interaction in the 2015 NFL Draft, and future drafts, won’t just be New York Jets fans chanting “J-E-T-S…JETS, JETS, JETS” from the balcony and then later booing whoever the Jets select. Fan interaction at the draft is going to exponentially rise and Chicago hosting the event is the seminal moment in the evolution of this event, in my opinion.
Plus, the next time New York City hosts the event you can be sure it will do more for the fans.
Here’s to hoping your favorite team snags the player you’re desperately hoping they get. If you’re in Chicago this weekend, you could literally hang out outside the tent where those decisions will be made. How cool is that?
The future is now for the NFL Draft and it will be really fun seeing how this event continues to evolve over the next decade. It took quite awhile, but for the residents of Chicago, it was well worth the wait. Other big cities around the country better get their ‘host the draft’ proposals polished – your city could be next.
The real winner of the NFL Draft finally changing its routine? Us, the fans.
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