SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Chi-Town is once again Draft Town.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a joint press conference on Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Schaumburg, Ill., announcing that the NFL draft will return to Chicago next April.
"We're coming back to Chicago for the Draft in May of 2016," Goodell said. "We're thrilled. They have earned it. The success we had last year set a new bar for the Draft. It set a new opportunity for fans to interact with the NFL. It had a tremendous impact on this community. The Bears, the city and the fans did an absolute extraordinary job and we are thrilled to be coming back."
"I want to thank the NFL Draft and all the franchises for once again picking the city of Chicago," Mayor Emanuel added. "We've made the Second City the first choice again and the NFL Draft is a world class event and I'm proud they picked a world class city like the city of Chicago."
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Chicago will host the festivities from April 28-30, although a location for the event has yet to be determined.
"We're still determining," NFL Vice President Peter O'Reilly said. "Obviously, we had a great experience last year at the Auditorium Theatre, but we're using this time now that we're announcing more than two months in advance of when we announced last year to look at all the options. Certainly the new normal of the Draft now is the big fan festival and that will still be in Grant Park, but we're still using the time over the next couple of months to really nail down where the venues will be.
"Leaving New York after 51 years we were able, in Chicago, to take the Draft to a new level. Over 200,000 thousand people in Grant Park. We've set a new bar here in Chicago. This was our challenge to our partners here in Chicago: How do we continue to raise the bar in 2016? We have every confidence that we will raise that bar in 2016. Get even more fans in Grant Park for Draft Town. It is a new normal for the draft."
The city of Chicago hosted the the 2015 NFL Draft last April — after previously being held in New York for the last half-century — and many NFL officials praised the city for the event. According to a Sport Industry Research Center at Temple University that was instructed by the Chicago Sports Commission, the Draft generated a total economic impact of $81.6 million. That same research found that half of the attendees were from outside the city of Chicago and generated 31,000 hotel nights. NFL staff, sponsors and media generated another 5,600 hotel nights.
The NFL announced that the league will work with the Bears, Mayor Emanuel, Choose Chicago, the Chicago Sports Commission and the Chicago Park District on week-long Draft events, with the plan being to expand Draft Town and add youth clinics and community programs, similar to last year's festivities leading up the 2016 NFL Draft.
There had been speculation that the city of Los Angeles would be granted the rights to host the 2016 event as a way to showcase the city for a possible relocation in 2017. Owners from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance on Tuesday at the owners meeting to discuss the future of a team possibly relocating to Los Angeles. The St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders all gave presentations.
However, the NFL announced that it will develop a selection process for determining landing spots for future Drafts with Chicago still being under consideration for 2017 and beyond.
"Fairly early on we realized the power of the Chicago experience and learned so much of the opportunity to raise it up next year, and really what we've set forth and what we're laying out from here forth is starting this fall that we're going to open up the process for bidding for the Draft," O'Reilly said. "We want all of our clubs to express interest and really as we look to 2017 and 2018 creating a more formal process around that and we'll provide more details on that as it starts to come to life. Chicago clearly will be a part of that process as well."
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Some of the NFL's demands to the city of Chicago in 2015 included the use of the 3,900 Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, street closures for nearly three weeks, police escorts for draft selections, indoor and outdoor space for NFL Draft parties and sponsors, an estimated $4 million of promotional signage and materials, and an option to keep the draft in Chicago in 2016 — which the league has exhausted. O'Reilly hinted on Tuesday that some of those same contractual demands will still be in place for 2016.
2016 will mark the 10th different year Chicago has hosted the draft, as the Windy City hosted the event in 1938, 1942-1944, 1951, 1962-1964 and 2015.
And Mayor Emanuel couldn't be more pleased to see the Draft return to Chicago.
"We had a helicopter on Saturday afternoon take a shot of the crowd and we had a firm photo back on his [Goodell's] desk Monday morning and said, 'I want you to see what a great American event looks like in a great American city like the city of Chicago.'"