The NFL announced Wednesday that the NFL Draft is going to Dallas in 2018, which means Philadelphia is SOL. There is still hope for Philly for future years, but unlike Chicago’s run of back-to-back years, Philly lost. To Dallas.
In 2017, the NFL announced record attendance of 250,000 for the three-day Philly event, held on the Parkway this past April. The first night of the draft featured an attendance of 70,000 fans, which was also a one-day record for any draft, ever. Expectations were that the 2018 event would mirror this year’s in both setup and scope.
Initial whispers about returning to Philly for 2018 began during the draft last year, but word started to ramp up in mid-August. An NFL insider told us then it was “looking really, really good for Philly again.”
In early September a member of the local draft committee said that while it wasn’t hadn’t been confirmed the Draft would be Philly’s, “we’re on the one yard line” for it to come back again in 2018. The official was so sure the draft was coming to Philly we were told to expect an announcement after the Labor Day weekend.
“After last year,” the source said, “how could they not?”
Well, they did not.
For several months, the decision has been down to just Philadelphia and Dallas, per multiple sources, with the Cowboys offering up their stadium for the event, as well as their entire training facility. Jerry Jones gave the NFL every reason to pick Dallas, despite how successful the Philly version was in 2017.
There was not one reported arrest related to the 2017 event during the three full days the NFL was in Philly. One man was questioned for reportedly flying a drone over the Parkway, but was not charged. And that’s it.
That said, the draft was not perfect by any means. While the events on the Parkway were well received, roads in the area were shut down for weeks, and traffic around the ongoing construction near the entrance had both motorists and pedestrians frustrated long before and after the event.
In our post-draft report card, we noted that residents of Spring Garden and Fairmount had expressed concerns for weeks leading up to the draft, specifically about how long the traffic and parking changes were put in place. For events like the pope visit or Made In America concerts, residents were far less inconvenienced than with the nearly month-long build up to the draft, and two-plus weeks it took to break everything down.
Billy Penn also reported before April’s draft that the projected $80-million the NFL and the PHLCVB touted as the estimated economic impact was likely inflated, given much of that figure was based on the three-day television commercial Philadelphia was getting from both ESPN and the NFL Network. And yet, in late August the NFL and CVB released their impact projections had exceeded initial marks, bumping the number up to $94.9 million, including $56.1 million of direct spending, according to the report conducted by the Temple Sports Industry Research Center.
Again, much of that number is financial impact, figured by polling draft-goers to determine if they’d return. Per the report, 79 percent said they would recommend Philly to someone else and 62 percent said they would return to the city within the next year. Perhaps many of them also assumed they’d return for the 2018 draft. Now, many may be headed south.
Last year, PHLCVB CEO Julie Coker Graham said the budget for the event was a total of $25 million, of which $20 would be paid by the NFL. It took right up until the draft for the host committee — led by former Philadelphia Eagle Ron Jaworski — to secure their part of the funding, but even after the event, word of cost overruns had some in the city unsure if the NFL would return.
In May, Building Trades spokesman Frank Keel responded to claims of cost overages by telling us there were no overruns because there was no budget.
“Rumors of cost-overruns are baseless, Keel said, “because there was no budget established by the NFL. None. Remember, the NFL is one of the wealthiest, most successful organizations on the planet. The city and the Trades had much less lead time than Chicago and other prior host cities but, over the span of a few short weeks, the Trades still built the largest stage in the draft’s history and an interactive NFL fan experience and village that enthralled 250,000 people over three days.”
Keel expressed the need for more time to build up to the event should it return to Philly. Last year, the official announcement came on Sep. 1, so the city already had less time to plan than they did last year. The NFL declined to respond to Keel’s claims back in May, but Peter O’Reilly, NFL senior vice president of events, said, “Philadelphia has been a fantastic host and in our eyes, the bar has been raised for what the draft is and can be.”
As the clock kept ticking on a draft announcement, or lack thereof, the specter of the event going to Dallas became more likely. Construction costs were a big issue here, even with the event here last year and logistics to re-create the event far easier than starting from scratch. They’ll be virtually non-existent in Jerry’s World.
Word spread last spring that Dallas had become a front-runner for the 2018 event, to the point where Jones was openly lobbying to host. Rumors were hot that the only thing standing in the way of the NFL selecting Dallas was the prospect of Texas passing a ‘bathroom bill’ similar to the one North Carolina had passed, but that bill, limiting transgender people from accessing bathrooms in public buildings, died on the Texas House floor in mid-August, paving the way for the NFL to make an announcement that Dallas would host in 2018.
Still, it took months. But considering the NFL has been dealing with hurricanes in team cities, the President of the United States chiming in on national anthem protests and, most recently, the legal battle between the league and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, it’s understandable why the announcement took so long to make.