The NFL has already decided on the locations of 3 of the next 4 venues for the NFL Draft but has left 2022 open. Can the Detroit Lions be in the mix for it?
As a life long Detroit Lions fan, I’ve been a dedicated follower of the NFL draft. Beginning in1980, ESPN reached an agreement with the NFL to televise it. In those days, a few national sports publications would dedicate a weekly or monthly story with mock drafts and player evaluations for the relatively few draft nerds like me.
On draft day I had them all in front of me, spread across my floor, crossing names off the list as prospects were chosen and not-so-patiently waiting for the Lions turn, hoping that they would choose my desired selection.
For so many years it was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It was invariably attended by mostly Giants and Jets fans. The thought of going to New York to attend the never seriously crossed my mind as the location seemed crowded and not really an entertaining place to be for a fan outside unless you lived in the Big Apple.
Then, in 2014, due to scheduling conflicts with the New York venue, the NFL decided to look at other cities to hold the event. Bids were accepted from a dozen cities and Chicago was finally chosen for the 2015 edition of the annual and increasingly popular experience. The event was so successful they hosted the 2016 version as well.
Then, just before the 2016 season, the NFL announced Philadelphia as the host city for 2017. Having seen the Chicago outdoor events and all of the other fan entertainment activities they had there, I felt it was time to check it out for myself. Besides, aside from travel expenses, it was free to attend.
I traveled to Philadelphia for the event. It was held at the huge Benjamin Franklin Park, famously known for the location of the Philadelphia Museum of Art where Sylvester Stallone in the movies Rocky I and Rocky II ran up the steps to the top and danced. There is now a Rocky statue there, but they placed it at the bottom so many more people could stand in line to get their picture taken with it.
The stage, when seeing it up close, is truly spectacular. Thousands of people were standing in the area right in front of it wearing their home team jerseys from all across the country. There were both men and women, and some brought their kids. Attendees began filling up three hours before the start to lock down a great spot right in front. As the time for the first pick approached that area filled to capacity.
With attendees from almost every NFL city, each pick when announced drew reactions. All of the in-between films on each player were played on the huge screen just like when they show it on TV.
All along a long way from the entrance of the park to the stage, for about a mile, there were loudspeakers so fans could hear all of the picks and the commentary in between. There were Hall of Fame exhibits, cheerleaders from each team to take pictures with, and an NFL store that was very well-organized and crowd controlled.
If you found an item of clothing but not the preferred size during any of the first two days, no problem. They completely restock the store each night so you can go the next day and find it. But get there earlier because it’s always full of shoppers.
It was reportedly attended by 250,000 people over the three-day event, yet it never seemed overcrowded and fans from all over the country attended. Simply put, it was awesome.