When the first NFL Draft took place in 1936 in a suite in Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton with zero media coverage, no one could have imagined the event would evolve into a three-day festival.
More than 70 years later, the draft returned home as an engaging event complete with player autograph booths, memorabilia from previous championship teams and interactive 40-yard dashes in which kids raced against NFL stars via digital video screens.
Held on the famous “Rocky steps” of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from April 27-29, this year’s draft attracted an estimated 250,000 fans, 1,700 credentialed journalists and millions more watching on television around the world.
The event placed the national sports spotlight squarely on the City of Brotherly Love. In addition to the museum’s main theater, other key sites used were Selection Square at the Franklin Institute, where team executives officially selected their draftees, and the free interactive NFL Experience, which covered the length of 25 football fields along Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“I think it was a huge win for the city,” says Larry Needle, executive director of Philadelphia Sports. “The beauty shots along the parkway were spectacular. The fans were tremendous. From a visitors bureau perspective, it was great to see all those jerseys up and down the parkway.”