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Only-in-Vegas fan experience awaits NFL draft attendees

As important as the NFL draft is for incoming football prospects, the three-day event is also one of the marquee fan occasions for the league each year.

The draft is known for bringing out the best in fans, with many showing up in zany outfits displaying pride for their favorite franchise.

“The draft itself has become the spectacle that it is because of the fans,” said Eric Finkelstein, NFL senior director of events. “We started as a ballroom, closed-door meeting for this event, and it’s just evolved and grown over the years, including taking it on the road to places like Las Vegas to bring it to more fans. It’s why it is the phenomenon that it is.”

If projections ring true, this year’s draft could be the biggest event Las Vegas has ever hosted.

The 2019 draft in Nashville, Tennessee, saw more than 500,000 fans attend, a number that Las Vegas is expected to surpass.

“There are going to be hundreds of thousands of people in town for the draft, as well as this is a great event for the community,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “It’s an event that’s free and we’ve invited the whole community to come out. … People will come and go during the draft. So, we expect hundreds of thousands each day.”

Aside from witnessing their favorite team choose perhaps the next franchise player, fans in attendance have a bevy of options to keep themselves entertained on all days of the draft.

Kicking off the fun on Day 1 will be the red carpet stage set up on the iconic Fountains of Bellagio.

There, top invited NFL prospects will make the media rounds before being driven to the NFL Draft Theater near The Linq Hotel.

Las Vegas Boulevard in front of the Bellagio and Flamingo Road from the Strip intersection to Koval Lane will be closed to vehicle traffic over the three days.

This will allow fans to flood the area and cheer on their favorite soon-to-be NFL player.

The family-friendly event is free to the public, with the NFL urging fans to download its OnePass smartphone app to allow for a seamless experience at the Draft Theater and the neighboring NFL Draft Experience.

Especially on Day 1, with the two centers of activity being nearly a mile away, those planning to check out both areas can expect to do a bit of walking.

With temperatures forecast in the 90s each day of the draft, all attendees should dress accordingly and stay hydrated under the hot desert sun.

NFL Draft Experience

When not watching NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others announce draft selections at the Draft Theater, attendees can put their skills to the test at the draft experience, which boasts over 1 million square feet of fun.

The area will have an interactive theme park, NFL player appearances, food and beverage options and specialty retail items available only in Las Vegas for the draft.

“You’ll be able to participate in events that happen at the combine,” Hill said, referring to the annual NFL scouting combine where pro prospects demonstrate their skills.

Here are some of the interactive games fans can participate in at the experience area.

40-yard dash: Fans can see how they stack up against other fans in attendance and NFL players who will race them virtually on the 40-yard LED wall that serves as the backdrop of the activation.

Vertical jump: Just like the draft prospects did during the NFL scouting combine, fans can see how much hops they have in the vertical jump game. The vertical jump is measured from the length of each participant’s reach to the flag they are able to hit above.

Field goal kick: Fans can see how far they can line up and nail a kick at the field goal challenge event. Maybe it will give participants more perspective the next time they’re yelling at their TV screen when their team’s kicker misses a game-changing field goal.

FedEx Ground Challenge: Participants will catch a punt and weave their way through obstacles as they race down the field to the end zone.

NFL Play 60 zone: The NFL Play 60 zone will feature various attractions, including a football target toss, a photo booth, a dance-off zone and NFL Flag football on-field clinics. Kids ages 6 to 17 can participate in the daily clinics run by coaches that are open on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fans will also be able to get various current and former NFL players’ autographs each day and grab a drink at the Bud Light Draft Tavern.

Come for the draft picks and stay for the interactive events. Even if one is not a football fan, the draft experience is something that anyone can enjoy.

“It will be a nonstop, four- or five-hour event for people who come out,” Hill said. “It’s a big week. It’s not just the weekend. It’s going to start on Wednesday and Thursday and carry through the weekend.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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Five arrests made during NFL draft, police say

The Metropolitan Police Department said five arrests were made Thursday, the draft’s first day, on charges including vagrancy, sleeping in public, resisting a public officer, trespassing and disorderly conduct.