NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The official number of football fanatics attending never really seems all that official — just that it’s a massive party of licensed NFL merchandise.
Come one, come all, and know that while it’s not a requirement to wear the jersey of your favorite team, you might feel out of place without it.
Las Vegas in 2020 will know the sort of three-day celebration that Music City hosted this week. The NFL Draft is set to land in Southern Nevada just months before the Raiders open their palace of a stadium.
The draft dates being reported are April 23-25.
It will be the first time an NFL draft has been held in the West, and don’t be surprised to see plenty of fans walking down the Strip dressed as your favorite player while double-fisting a few 24-ounce tallboys, as was the case on Lower Broadway for the first round Thursday night.
Folks get pretty crazy at this thing.
Be sure not to trip over any of the foam cheeseheads lining the streets.
April is when hundreds of prospects hear their names called and 32 teams boast about how much better they become during a 72-hour period, assured those selected over seven rounds are capable of addressing on-field needs everyone but the Patriots seem to own.
That’s what the draft is, after all. Lots of hopes and dreams and adults painting their faces and wearing jerseys while downing tallboys.
“I told someone the other day that, when the draft (in Nashville) ended, Las Vegas owned the event,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said Friday. “We’re looking at it as the kickoff to our inaugural season there. I’m really excited for all of Las Vegas to see what it’s getting by having the NFL. They might think they know, but it’s even bigger and better than that. Hopefully, having the draft will set the stage for Las Vegas eventually hosting a Super Bowl.”
The draft presents an opportunity for the host city to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors while being seen by millions of others across all levels of television and social media platforms.
It’s a long, long way from 1936, when the draft was instituted as the response to University of Minnesota running back Stan Kostka holding out nine months for the highest offer after leading the Gophers to an undefeated season.
While waiting to see which NFL team would pay him the most, Kostka actually ran for mayor of his hometown. He eventually received a $5,000 contract from the league’s team in Brooklyn.
What you see in Las Vegas in 2020 will be a tad more elaborate.
“It’s exciting for us to know at least a year in advance,” said Lisa Motley, director of sports marketing and special events for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, who was in Nashville this week. “Usually, the NFL doesn’t announce the (next draft site) until after the current one.
“We are here with some people from MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment, so that’s giving a little bit of a clue” about potential draft event sites in Las Vegas. “There are also others involved. That’s our role. We put the bid together and figured out where the best options were for the NFL to showcase Las Vegas to the NFL platform.”
Economists tend to be consistent in their opinion that any city’s projected financial impact for hosting the draft — Dallas officials said they generated $125 million in 2018, those in Philadelphia claimed $94 million the year before, and Nashville is projecting an all-time record number — are almost always overinflated and skewed to make the undertaking seem worthy of the stress it puts on a town.
On its police and fire and security and emergency services and road closures and traffic issues.
But those who believe the draft an important event to host counter with these numbers: The event in Dallas drew 45 million television viewers and a billion media impressions over three days. Philadelphia estimated its reach at 137 million impressions.
They are gigantic numbers that make the LVCVA salivate.
The draft “will be one of the biggest sports events in the history of Tennessee — another great opportunity to welcome the world and show fans, players and media what we’re all about,” Nashville Mayor David Briley told reporters beforehand. “Events like this generate important revenues that allow us to make long-term investments.
“There is a burden that goes along with all the benefits. Hosting wouldn’t be something (a city) would likely want to do every weekend or every month or even every year. But it presents a unique moment for showing off the city on a huge, national stage.”
Online polls have posed questions for some time about the best places to hold specific draft events in Las Vegas — the red carpet arrival of prospects and celebrities, the Fan Fest and all its interactive games, the area where selections are announced and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell comes to get booed.
He got that treatment this week from a 65-foot-tall, 165-foot-wide stage adjacent to the Cumberland River.
You half expected country star Tim McGraw to perform a free concert.
Oh, wait. He did Friday night.
Guessing at venues
Opinions across those polls have varied from Fremont Street to the Strip to even a few casino resort pools, though it might be tough packing 200,000 or more into a row of cabanas.
That’s the number of people NFL officials said will have packed Broadway Avenue for this year’s draft, though projections began at 100,000 Thursday and seemingly rose by the hour.
It’s never really a totally accurate count, other than the area being a madhouse of people cheering or degrading each pick, depending on one’s team of interest. Or, of course, those crying ones wearing Giants jerseys when they hear the name Daniel Jones.
“I think the fact that we have 150,000 hotel rooms and so much more offerings from the dining, shopping to the whole experience, all of it differentiates Las Vegas,” Motley said. “I think now that we’re the sports capital of the world, you’re going to see more people descend on Las Vegas than usual” for the draft.
There is more to it than grand staging and food trucks and corporate parties and multiple viewing areas. Draft-eligible athletes will take part in community events early in the week throughout the valley, and an estimated 1,500 volunteers will be needed to work every portion of the draft, all leading up to the No. 1 overall pick being announced.
A lot occurs before NFL fans take over the host city.
Las Vegas will be different from Nashville, different from the few cities to have held the draft, given New York did so for 50 years before it moved to Chicago in 2015.
It will offer its own style, its own unique take on how to welcome the NFL before, well, officially welcoming it for the 2020 season.
Tim McGraw might not roll in for a free concert at next year’s draft, but who knows what Las Vegas might do to create its own memories?
Here’s a thought: If he’s not in a playoff game the opening night of the draft, have Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury announce the Raiders’ first pick.
It would make for a great scene. The place would go nuts, and it would be the first time Goodell was near a stage and heard nothing but cheers.
A definite win-win.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.
NFL Draft in Las Vegas
When: Tent. April 23-25, 2020
Format: Seven rounds over three days, first round only would be April 23.
Estimated economic impact: $100 million-plus.
Estimated number of visitors over three days: 250,000-plus.