Credit: Dan Levy/Billy Penn

Imagine this: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces the first pick of the NFL Draft, and the first player selected hugs his family, then walks through a sea of fans up the Art Museum steps to shake the commissioner’s hand.

Or down the steps. The NFL isn’t sure which yet.

What they are sure about is — what the NFL and the City of Philadelphia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has already agreed upon — is that the Art Museum steps will be a big part of the NFL Draft. Cue the Rocky music now.

“The Art Museum steps will be a prominent iconic visual,” NFL Senior Vice President of Events Peter O’Reilly told BIlly Penn at the announcement inside City Hall on Thursday. “The thought of walking those steps as the players enter the league is a pretty powerful one for them, so it will absolutely play a big role.”

“I think [other venues were] minorly considered,” Mayor Jim Kenney echoed. “When we stood on the inside level of the second deck of the Art Museum with the NFL officials, they looked down the parkway and said ‘this is it. If we come here, this is it.’”

This is it. The NFL Draft is coming to Philadelphia, and city couldn’t be happier about it.

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Philly’s Draft History

During the announcement that the draft is coming to Philadelphia, on April 27-29, O’Reilly reminded those in attendance at the City Hall announcement that it’s actually coming back to Philly.

Did you know: The first ever NFL Draft was held here? At the Ritz-Carlton hotel, in 1936. Philly also hosted the draft in 1949-50, 1953-54, 1956 and from 1957 through 1961. None of those, mind you, were outside on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Economic Impact

The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau states the total projected economic impact will be “more than $86.4 million,” with $6.8 million in projected state and local taxes. Host Committee co-chair Ron Jaworski boasted about the 1,700 media members who will attend the event, with tens of millions of fans watching on television.

The PHLCVB states in their estimates that 26,000-plus jobs will be supported by the construction, hospitality and transportation sectors surrounding the draft.

But really, what does that figure of $86.4 million mean?

In Chicago, where the draft was held the last two years, it meant about $44 million of direct impact to the city, but even that number was based on the survey data that nearly three-quarters of the 200,000 people who attended the draft would come back in the subsequent 12 months. The city will make money, but to expect that much coming back in actual dollars is patently false.

And before the city can make money, it’s going to have to spend it.

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A “ballpark” $5 million

PHLCVB President & CEO Julie Coker Graham broke down the expenses for the project, and what the city, specifically, will have to spend. She stressed that, under the current budget, no taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for the draft.

“A little over $25 million is the total budget,” Coker Graham told a gaggle of reporters after the press conference. “A significant part of that is to be covered by the NFL in terms of the build-out, which they’ll be doing on the Parkway. And then the remaining balance is going to be fundraised with a public/private partnership.”

Coker Graham ballparked that the city will have to find about $5 million through this public/private partnership.

“There will be a budget we are going in with. We are all very aware of the public/private partnership thanks to Ron Jaworski and Ira Rupert who are going to help us raise that. But there will be no taxpayer dollars.

“There will be no hangover on this one.”


Mayor Kenney admitted the city will be on the hook for finding money, though not specifically funding the event themselves. “There will be city funds in there,” he said to reporters. “We don’t have a specific breakdown right now, but based on the return of investment, as was mentioned by Ron Jaworski, it will be a pretty good investment.

“Everyone wanted to get this done.”

The 2017 NFL Draft will be held in the shadow of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The 2017 NFL Draft will be held in the shadow of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Billy Penn

Up or Down The Steps?

The NFL doesn’t know exactly where the draft will be held. When we pressed O’Reilly on the location of the stage on which the players will be introduced, he couldn’t say if it will be below the Art Museum steps or above’ just that the steps will definitely be involved.

Also, the entire draft will be outside, in structures (do not call them tents) the NFL will have built. How long those structures will take to build will be determined once they figure out a location. Coker Graham said they are looking at both the site of the papal mass or the current Made in America concert location as options. Then, after that is decided, the budget can be finalized.

But what about the weather? Is there a contingency if there is an April shower? Or, like in Chicago, an April deluge?

“The structure will be well protected for any of those elements,” O’Reilly assured us.

‘We do big events’

Jaworski was exuberant at the press conference, extolling the hard work of everyone on his committee and those working for the city to get this event here. “There were a lot of fourth-and-longs” he said, garnering a hearty laugh from those in attendance who surely at one point or another wished they had decided to punt.

Instead, Philly went for it, and the result is a huge victory — and potential windfall — for the city, giving Kenney a feather in his big event cap.

“We do big events.” Kenney said. “We do the pope. We do the DNC. Made in America. Welcome America. This is just in line with things we’re going to do.”