Five reasons why Green Bay and the Packers should host an NFL draft
GREEN BAY - The annual NFL draft starts Thursday in Las Vegas, which seems a natural location for a league in which every event is an extravaganza.
Green Bay was one of the finalists for the 2024 draft, along with Detroit and Washington. Green Bay is not Las Vegas, but neither is Detroit, which ultimately got the 2024 draft, or Kansas City, which will host in 2023.
It will be difficult for any city to follow Las Vegas, where records for attendance and economic impact are expected. The last draft unfettered by COVID-19 was in 2019 in Nashville, where attendance was pegged at 600,000.
The Packers and community leaders are not ending their quest to bring the event to Green Bay in 2025 or 2027. The Packers will host the Wisconsin-Notre Dame college football game in 2026 and do not want to have two such large events in the same year.
The selection of Detroit disappointed Green Bay organizers, who believed they had a better-than-even shot at 2024, but they won't give up.
"It’s not a yes or no answer. It’s a when. We are not giving up, regardless," Brad Toll, president and CEO of tourism bureau Discover Green Bay, said when the announcement was made in March.
So why does small, out-of-the-way Green Bay believe it, too, could host an NFL draft. Here are five reasons:
Green Bay smaller but made for TV
The Packers admit that a Green Bay draft would not be a Las Vegas draft, or even a Chicago, Nashville or Kansas City draft. It would have to be smaller, but not so much so that it would fail to provide the backdrop for what is, as all NFL activities are, a made-for-television event. Lambeau Field, Titletown District and CityDeck are good television backdrops, as proven many times during nationally televised football games.
Packers have storied history
The Packers have three things no other NFL team does: 13 championships, a history like no other franchise and Lambeau Field. The NFL loves to tout its history and the networks love to tout Green Bay's history. That has been among Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy's selling points in trying to attract the draft.
"One major point that resonates with the NFL has to be the 'nostalgia' of Lambeau Field and Green Bay," Toll said. "It’s that chill people get when they see Lambeau Field for the first time. The NFL knows that Lambeau Field is a very special place."
While northeastern Wisconsin isn't on the way to anywhere, it is within reach of Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
"Between Chicago and Minneapolis, it's an easy trip. I think a lot of people across the country have wanted to see Lambeau Field and I think this would motivate them to come out," Murphy said.
Additionally, no other team in the NFL is owned by its fans. When the league needs a break from storylines about its less-than-ready-for-prime-time owners — can you say Daniel Snyder? — the Packers story provides an antidote.
The Packers will be involved. Officially, the NFL awards the draft to cities, not teams. That would be true here as well, but the Packers will be more involved than other teams because their resources, in both personnel and finances, will be required to pull off the draft in the NFL's smallest market.
Setup similar to 2021 host Cleveland
Green Bay has a physical set-up similar to that in Cleveland, which hosted the 2021 draft. Cleveland centered the draft on the Browns' FirstEnergy Stadium, the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Packers would have a similar footprint with the Resch Center/Resch Expo complex, Lambeau Field and Titletown.
Hotels from Green Bay to Milwaukee
Nashville had 53,000 hotel rooms in 2019, Las Vegas has 150,000. Green Bay has a few more than 4,600 hotel rooms, but local organizers point out that there are many more between Green Bay and Milwaukee, which is 90 miles south. While that might seem like a long distance, travel time wouldn't be much worse than trying to get to downtown Chicago or Philadelphia from their suburbs.
Milwaukee has more than 25,000 rooms, according to Visit Milwaukee. Madison has about 11,000 and Appleton-Oshkosh about 5,000. There also are many short-term rental properties, including 850 in the Green Bay market, Toll said. Altogether, those and uncounted others fairly equal Nashville's availability.
Other large events in Wisconsin have been successful using hotel rooms around the state, including the Ryder Cup last year near Kohler, the annual EAA fly-in in Oshkosh and the Wisconsin-LSU football game at Lambeau Field in 2016.