Green Bay 'absolutely' could host NFL draft
The Green Bay Packers have applied to host an NFL draft in 2019 or later
GREEN BAY – After surveying the NFL draft in Philadelphia, two community representatives believe Green Bay has what it takes to host the event.
Whether it will get the chance is up to the NFL, but after attending the three-day draft April 27-29 in Philadelphia, Brad Toll and Aaron Popkey believe the community is well positioned to play host to what has become one of the NFL's bigger productions.
"My gut feeling is with the people they had in town, we could accommodate that," said Toll, president/CEO of the Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Between the Resch Center and Titletown District, we certainly have every bit of space they need."
The NFL has not announced a site for the 2018 draft after holding it in Chicago for two years and in Philadelphia this year. The league did not say when it would make an announcement.
The Packers have asked to host the draft for specific years. The 100th birthday of the Packers' founding, 2019, would be a top choice, but they'll take what they can get.
Neither Toll nor Popkey would characterize their level of optimism on the matter, but Toll did say, "The event itself, we could absolutely do it here."
That's not a small point.
When the NFL moved the draft from New York to Chicago, that city pulled out all the stops with a festival atmosphere in Grant Park, drawing thousands of fans. Philadelphia did the same.
Popkey, Packers director of public affairs, said Philadelphia hosted 250,000 people over three days, though some were triple-counted because they came back each day.
Attendance the first day of the draft peaked at 65,000, Toll said.
"We have 80,000 for a (typical Packers) game," he said.
Hotel rooms seem the biggest challenge, but that depends on how many the NFL requires and how close they need to be to the event. Toll said they are waiting to hear from the league on that.
By the end of this year, Green Bay will have just under 4,700 rooms, Appleton will have 3,000, and as with the Wisconsin-LSU college football game in September 2016, it's not unreasonable to expect some people to stay as far away as Milwaukee or Madison and points in between.
"It would be a matter of what the NFL wants within proximity of Green Bay," Toll said.
With much of the Titletown District expected to be completed by 2019, the Packers would have a large space for its own Draft Town setting.
Popkey said downtown could be a component, too. In Philly, Selection Square was several blocks from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway festival grounds.
For the draft itself, the NFL requires a stage for announcing picks, a green room, floor space for team tables, broadcasting areas for NFL Network and ESPN, working space for other media and fan seating.
The theater in Philadelphia, built on the steps of the Franklin Institute, had a capacity of 3,000. The Resch Center would more than accommodate that, Toll said.
The NFL is not looking for a cookie-cutter draft that duplicates the Chicago and Philadelphia events, Toll said.
"They don't necessarily want us to do what Chicago did, what Philly did," he said. "They want a unique flavor. What I took away is how flexible they are willing to be."
Green Bay and the Packers could highlight history and tradition to land the draft here, Popkey said. The Packers are the third-oldest NFL team, behind the Chicago Bears and Arizona (originally Chicago) Cardinals. The Packers have been in the same location with the same name longer than any team, and Lambeau Field is a perennial bucket-list visit for sports fans.
"Another positive aspect is the number of people who said it would be so great to have it in Green Bay," Popkey said. "NFL people, too."
Green Bay successfully hosted two large football-related events, including the NFL season kick-off party in September 2011 and the Wisconsin-LSU game in September 2016.
Philadelphia invested $5 million to host the draft, Toll said. The NFL paid $20 million for the event. The local share could come from sponsorships.
Weather could be an issue, but no more so than in Chicago or Philadelphia in April.
The Packers aren't the only team with an eye on the draft. More than 20 have expressed interest, Popkey said.
"I think there are a lot of good reasons to have the draft in northeastern Wisconsin," he said.