When the NFL announced last week that the city of Nashville will host the 2019 NFL draft, the decision left four other finalists — Cleveland/Canton, Denver, Kansas City and Las Vegas — in a bit of a holding pattern, at least for another year.
It appears, however, that the wait for these cities to host one of the league’s marquee events might not be a long one.
When asked if it’s reasonable to assume the other finalist cities will one day get an opportunity to host the event, Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events, nodded his head.
“Yeah, I’d say that’s reasonable,” O’Reilly told Yahoo Sports. “A market like Kansas City [for instance] has been very interested for a while and has taken it very seriously. It’s not a decision I necessarily make but that certainly helps them, given the commitment they’ve made to hosting the draft.”
Nothing is set in stone, of course, as any one of the aforementioned cities could lose interest in hosting the draft. Just like it does for the Super Bowl, the NFL has a long list of parameters that candidate cities must fulfill — like having a certain number of hotels.
That hasn’t scared off many NFL cities, though, as a number have expressed a desire to host the draft ever since the league was forced to start looking for alternative sites for the 2015 event, when a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall in New York meant the longtime venue would not be available that year.
“We’ve got more than 20 club markets interested in hosting a draft now,” O’Reilly said. “That number is significant.”
But it’s not a surprise. Although the NFL has a list of requirements for cities hosting the draft, those parameters are far less demanding to meet than the ones the league makes for a Super Bowl, which teams in the NFL’s smallest markets — like Nashville, for instance — obviously find much more palatable.
“The draft provides opportunities to go to other markets where the Super Bowl might not ever get to,” O’Reilly said.
The league considers their last four drafts — held in Chicago (2015, 2016), Philadelphia (2017) and Dallas (2018) — a success. And although the numbers aren’t in on Dallas yet, O’Reilly said the numbers provided by Chicago and Philadelphia show there was a positive economic impact on both cities, with Philadelphia generating an estimated $95 million for the city.
“What we’ve seen is, it’s not just the avid fans who may have sat in Radio City and charted every pick who show up — it’s also the more casual fan who, in our offseason, can go out and have a great time around the draft, connect to football, run the 40-yard dash, have a beer,” O’Reilly said.
O’Reilly said he and the rest of the NFL’s event committee will work with the cities who lost out on hosting the 2019 event in the coming months in hopes of providing a 2020 recommendation to owners at the NFL’s fall meeting in October.
Here’s a quick breakdown of three of the other four 2019 finalists’ chances of hosting the 2020 event, with Denver excluded since it cannot host the 2020 event due to scheduling conflicts.
The odds-on favorite, it appears, although Cleveland/Canton will already host its annual Hall of Fame enshrinement festival in August and Centennial Celebration in September of that year.
Shortly after the NFL awarded the 2019 event to Nashville, Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker released a statement indicating the Cleveland-Canton bid is alive and well for 2020.
“The Hall of Fame in partnership with the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland Sports Commission and Visit Canton stand ready to host the NFL draft in 2020 should we be selected,” Baker said in the statement. “In the meantime, the Hall and the entire Canton region remains focused on preparing for the once-in-every-other-lifetime opportunity in 2020 to celebrate the NFL’s Centennial in Canton, the birthplace of the league.”
The latter is an opportunity that is not lost on the league.
“It obviously links to the history of the game, and their vision was connecting downtown Cleveland with Canton, doing elements in both cities,” O’Reilly told Yahoo Sports. “As we approach our 100th season in 2019, the ’19 and ’20 drafts have a lot of significance, so that certainly is a powerful element.”
Voters shot down an Arrowhead Stadium renovation in 2006 that would have brought the Super Bowl to Kansas City by 2015, and the Hunt family — which owns the team — has been dying to bring a major NFL event to Kansas City ever since.
With another cold-weather Super Bowl likely years away, chairman Clark Hunt appears to be content with potentially hosting a draft.
“Kansas City presented a very strong proposal,” O’Reilly told Yahoo Sports. “It involved a downtown footprint with Union Station as the backdrop and using the significant park space connected to that to create a really powerful proposal. We’ve been working closely with the Kansas City Sports Commission and the Chiefs and will continue to do that.”
With the Raiders’ impending move to Sin City, it’s safe to say the NFL has embraced Vegas. And what better way to do that than by allowing it to host the draft in the same year the Raiders will begin playing there?
“Las Vegas is, you know, Las Vegas,” O’Reilly said with a laugh. “It has great venues and great energy there, and that also ties to creating additional excitement in that market before the Raiders take the field, so that’s a factor in that.”
O’Reilly also called the city’s bid “very strong,” a potential hint that the league likes it as a future draft site, whether it’s allowed to host the event in 2020 or not.
“There’s many different possibilities there, from theater locations, to potentially using festival grounds as a large draft experience,” O’Reilly said. “There’s a lot of creativity on that team in Vegas about how to use even iconic locations for certain elements of the draft, like the Bellagio fountains, which I think have been used for concerts and other things in the past.”
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