Packers want draft, but obstacles remain

Richard Ryman
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GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers would like to host an NFL draft.

The odds are reasonably long, but not as impossibly long as they would be to host a Super Bowl.

After about 50 years in New York, the draft was conducted in Chicago last year, setting new standards for fan participation, and will be again this week.

"I think we are a very compelling opportunity," said Aaron Popkey, Packers director of public affairs. "We have some unique features no other cities have."

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Host cities for 2017 and 2018 might be announced soon. The Packers were not finalists for those years, but Popkey said 2019, as an example, would be a good year to host because the Titletown District will be open and the team will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Chicago said it drew 200,000 fans to last year's draft. The event used 45 acres of parks and auditoriums and generated 36,000 hotel room nights over draft week. (By comparison, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports the Minneapolis bid for the 2018 Super Bowl includes 19,000 full-service hotel rooms within 60 minutes of the stadium and a 900-room headquarters hotel.)

"Depending on where it goes in the next years, that will be an opportunity for Greater Green Bay to see what's done" compared to the last two years, Popkey said of the draft.

The NFL, in seeking host cities, focused on market size, media market ranking, market attractiveness to sponsors, to media and to fans, and in-market support.

"We focused on the uniqueness of Green Bay and the history of football here," Popkey said. "While other cities have larger spaces or more hotel rooms, no other city would focus its attention on the draft like Green Bay would."

A draft event here could utilize the Titletown District, including its 10-acre public park and plaza, the Resch Center, Lambeau Field, the KI Convention Center, CityDeck Landing and Leicht Park, among other venues. In addition, historic venues would include Hotel Northland, the Packers Heritage Trail and, of course,  Lambeau Field.

Packers fan Dave Dormandy looks around the AFC teams tents at NFL Draft Town at Grant Park in Chicago, Ill. on Thursday, April 30, 2015.

There are obstacles. Brown County, even after three new hotels open in the next two years, will have 4,500 rooms. That would equal 18,000 room nights over a four-day period. And Chicago's tourism budget is many times larger than Green Bay's.

"We are bidding against cities that have beaucoup bucks," said Brad Toll, president and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We have a lot of traditions fans would love, but if other cities are willing to build them these villages, whey would the NFL pay for it here?

"That being said, we absolutely are interested in hearing more. We told the Packers if you are able to get the NFL interested, we'll be right there with you."

Toll said the Packers might find other NFL events to host, as well, such as an owners meeting.

The NFL said it would keep the Packers in mind, Popkey said.

"We'll continue to try to make the argument," he said.

Contact and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG, onInstagram at rrymanpgor on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Or call him at (920) 431-8342.

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