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Volume 25 No. 239
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Nashville Set For Huge Weekend As Host Of NFL Draft

The NFL Draft represents "something of a milestone" for both Nashville and the NFL, as the league continues its "push to bring one of its signature events to less-traditional spots around the country," according to Dan Wetzel of YAHOO SPORTS. When the NFL decided to take the Draft out of Manhattan after '14, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. President & CEO Butch Spyridon "immediately thought Nashville would be perfect." Philadelphia two years ago "turned the Draft into a true civic event" by "staging all three days outdoors in front of the Museum of Art." Around 250,000 people turned out. AT&T Stadium hosted last year’s Draft and that was "fine, but returning to the public square -- downtown Nashville, free and accessible to all -- is the right move." The city’s "still relatively small size and middle-of-the-country location are positives, not negatives," and the NFL "doesn’t need a media capital to promote itself anymore." The media will "come to wherever this thing is held." Las Vegas will host the '20 Draft, but after that, the NFL "should avoid glamorous locales and focus on putting this in the markets that have served it, places where something like a Draft would be a huge deal" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/23). In Nashville, Joe Rexrode in a front-page piece notes the Draft is "expected to bring in more than 300,000 people to downtown over three days," which would set a record for the event (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/25). 

MAKING A SUCCESSFUL PITCH: The AP's Teresa Walker noted Nashville was "considered a bit of a longshot to host" this Draft this year before a Titans uniform unveiling last April "drew approximately 20,000 for a fashion show and free concert." That was Nashville’s "last chip in swaying the NFL," and with a "lobbying push" from Titans Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk, the league owners chose Nashville last May. Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Strunk, “She wants to be able to show the NFL that we can have a first-class event and be an organization that can help the NFL. Now we want people to come and enjoy the concerts, enjoy the fan experience, and I think she’s excited to show them that, to have the stadium as a backdrop and then obviously enjoy everything that’s going on on Lower Broadway" (AP, 4/22). Strunk said, "Nashville is such a unique city and this is going to be such a unique draft when you add the music to it. I just want people to see it's a fun place to come and maybe some other folks will decide to have another big event here and that we know how to throw a party" ("Good Morning Football," NFL Network, 4/23).

HOW BIG CAN IT GET? NBC's Craig Melvin notes it is "hard to understate how big, how much of a spectacle" the Draft has become. It is now "almost as popular as the Super Bowl." NBC's Savannah Guthrie calls it one of the NFL's "most exciting and popular events" and notes fans "go crazy for it." NBC's Stephanie Gosk: "This is an event that has become as much about the fans as the players" ("Today," NBC, 4/25). In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis noted the Draft has been "big for many years," but it has "become an entity unto itself" in recent years. It has "gone from event to Event to EVENT to an industry all its own." Willis wrote, "Our love of football, entertainment and mass parties has combined with modern media to create a fun monster" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 4/21).

LISTEN TO THE MUSIC: In Nashville, Brad Schmitt noted country music singer Tim McGraw will "play a free show the second night of the Draft on the largest outdoor stage ever built on Lower Broadway." His "fellow country A-lister, Dierks Bentley, hits the same gigantic stage Saturday night" (TENNESSEAN.com, 4/19). Organizers "estimate roughly 150,000 could attend" the NFL Draft Experience in downtown Nashville, which runs through Saturday (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/23).