April NFL draft events expected to generate $80M for Philadelphia

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 Retired Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski says the NFL draft set for April in Philadelphia will be biggest ever.  (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Retired Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski says the NFL draft set for April in Philadelphia will be biggest ever. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The city of Philadelphia is just two months away from hosting it’s first NFL draft since 1961.  

It’s expected to bring big crowds, lots of TV viewers, and massive exposure for Philadelphia.

“It is going to be absolutely spectacular, it has never been done like this before … the Philadelphia way,” said former Eagles player Ron Jaworski Tuesday during a ceremony at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Once a quarterback, Jaworski became more of a cheerleader when he spoke about the draft, the annual selection of the top college players trying to break into pro football. The event, which has been on the road for past two years, is a major spectacle.

Larry Needle of PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city’s hospitality business will definitely notice.

“Nearly 40,000 hotel room nights, $80 million plus in economic impact, 1,700 members of the media coming in,” he predicted of the event to take place April 27, 28 and 29.

The event will cost approximately $25 million to stage, and the city will be responsible for about $5 million worth of security and other city services. 

Private fundraising has already generated about 70 percent of that, Needle said.

Peter O’Reilly, an NFL senior vice president, said the entertainment will stretch from the Art Museum of Philadelphia to the Franklin Institute — a span that would cover 25 football fields.  A temporary 3,000-seat theater will be assembled at the top of the museum steps.

“A lot of people want to obviously be in the theater,” he said. “You are there, and the prospects are there for the three days, but the experience on the Parkway is going to be great.

“There’s a little bit of everything, whether a fan wants to go to the draft tavern on the Parkway, drink a beer and see what is going on, or if you want to go to the kids area.” 

Mayor Jim Kenney said this will be an inclusive event, not one that frightens people away from the museum area as some business owners said happened during the visit of Pope Francis in 2015.

“In many ways, elements of the government during the pope’s visit were telling the pope to stay away, that’s not the message you want to give,” Kenney said. “You want people to come to Philadelphia, the Parkway, the Reading Terminal Market, to Market Street to South Broad Street to the neighborhoods, to Baltimore Avenue, to South Philly to Passyunk.”

And while Philadelphia may have had plenty of international exposure during the papal visit and Democratic National Convention over the summer, this event will likely reach people who didn’t tune in for either.

Football fans looking to get their hands on some free seats for the draft will have to enter a lottery next week.

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