So this is how it feels to put on a great event.
After complaints about small crowds for the pope and strained infrastructure during the DNC, Philly shined for the NFL Draft. Attendance was higher than expected, fans filled local bars and national media left praising the city. Not everything went off without a hitch — communication between city officials and Fairmount and Spring Garden was considered inadequate by many residents of those neighborhoods — but here’s a report card with seriously great grades for Philadelphia’s first turn at hosting the NFL Draft.
The show: A
The NFL Draft began changing from an insidery Saturday afternoon event to a prime time TV show in New York a few years ago. The last two years brought further change when Chicago started hosting. Now this year, Philadelphia brought an even newer twist, almost like a giant street festival or fair. And people throughout the sports world were digging Philly’s outdoor draft.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said “Philadelphia is raising the bar.” Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, one of the top national sports columnists, called it “a big block party” and “the people’s event for America’s sport.”
Some other praise:
So why not an A+ given how popular it was? You can’t charge $12 for a Bud Light at the draft and get an A+. Sorry.
Local business effect: A-
After the pope weekend led to restaurants throwing out food and then the city warned of riot precautions ahead of the DNC, shops and restaurants in Center City had reason to be wary of the hype when a big event comes to town. For the draft, there wasn’t as much hype; no #OpenInPHL or any kind of well-publicized effort to highlight local businesses. But by most indications restaurants near the Parkway and throughout Center City did vastly better than anticipated.
In the words of Pub & Kitchen’s Ed Hackett, the draft was “much better” than the DNC or Jay-Z’s Made In America concert. Alex Bokulich, director of operations for Craft Concepts Group (Bru, U-Bahn, Finn McCool’s, Uptown Beer Garden) said business was better than on New Year’s Day during the Mummers Parade and comparable to the DNC. Some economists are quick to point out the predicted $80 million impact for the draft is likely exaggerated, but it appears several businesses performed better than they would have on a regular late-April weekend.
Planning/city efforts: B
Residents of Spring Garden and Fairmount expressed problems with city officials in the weeks leading up to the draft. For them, the NFL Draft was arguably a greater annoyance than the pope weekend or Made In America because of how long traffic and parking changes were in effect. Setup for the draft began in early April. Did the NFL really need that long to build its stage and the various fan events? And does it really it need until May 12 to break everything down? Who knows. But the city gave them that much time — nearly a month.
The city catered to the NFL in other controversial ways, such as by switching out the country flags on the Parkway for team flags and by adorning banners on City Hall. But at the end of the day, the NFL Draft was here and was so successful national sports personalities are talking about how Philadelphia has set the standard for what the event will be going forward. Considering that, it’s not too terrible we had to deal with tacky NFL advertisements on City Hall and worse traffic for a few weeks. Fairmount residents, of course, may beg to differ.
The draft didn’t generate the same excitement and headlines prior to the event as the pope’s visit and the DNC, which were covered extensively for months. The NFL did create hype by predicting attendance of 200,000 over three days, based largely on what Chicago saw in 2015 and 2016.
Well, the draft lived up to the hype. The NFL announced Saturday that attendance for the three days of the draft was about 250,000. That number included what Philly police said were 70,000 who watched the first night of the draft Thursday.
In addition to showing up, fans created a lively atmosphere. They made it seem like a party instead of what a draft really is — a hated CEO reading names off a piece of paper for a few hours. Philly fans were especially a delight. We booed so loud during the Cowboys’ second round pick it was nearly impossible to hear who Dallas picked.
And then there was this amazing tweet. Philadelphia was at its best.
Security/event management: A-
Remember Pope Francis’ Parkway mass? The security lines were so long some people didn’t even get the opportunity to see the mass. The NFL Draft was not a National Special Security Event, like the pope’s visit and the DNC, so fewer restrictions and shorter lines should have been expected. And that’s exactly what happened. With three areas featuring multiple entry points, lines for security weren’t much of an issue. Aside from some technical complications that backed up lines when the draft festivities opened Thursday afternoon, security ran smoothly.
The Eagles had, by most accounts, a solid 2017 NFL Draft, bolstering the defensive line by taking Derek Barnett at No. 14 — the guy who broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee — and getting injured cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round. If healthy, Jones would have been the Eagles’ first-round pick (if he lasted that long), but questions linger about his Achilles injury, and how long it will take to heal. They drafted Rasul Douglas in the secondary as well, then took Donnell Pumphrey, who many are comparing to Darren Sproles at running back. Additions at wide receiver, linebacker and defensive line rounded out the draft picks. At first glance, it looks like Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas have made the roster better, but nobody really knows until these guys get on the field. The Eagles even published a few “experts” grades on the draft class. There is no consensus, because the day after the draft, everyone’s just guessing.
Sometimes you need luck. Philadelphia got all of that Thursday through Saturday. No rain, mostly sun and temperatures in the 70s and 80s. It was perfect.