By Joe Musso
This spring the NFL draft returns to Chicago with mixed reactions from economists, city officials and fans. Chicago last hosted the draft in 1964. The event was small enough to be held in a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel.
Now, with the NFL firmly positioned as one of the most powerful entities in sports and corporate business, the cost benefit of the large scale event has come into question.
In less than two months the NFL draft will descend upon Chicago’s famed lakefront. Mayor Emanuel and the board of tourism won a bidding war against multiple other cities for the right to host the event. They are thrilled about the opportunities that the weeklong media melee will bring to the city. But with this opportunity comes a list of requests from the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
In a five-page document sent by the NFL to the tourism bureau, Choose Chicago, the league makes some notable requests of the city including but not limited to: major street closures, preferential hotel rates and three weeks of exclusive use to the Auditorium Theatre at no cost.
“There’s been so much interest in the draft,” said Bears chairman George H. McCaskey. “ The 2014 draft drew a record 45.7 million viewers over the three-day event, edging out the previous record of 45.4 million in 2010. “Just a couple years ago who would have thought that an event of this type would have the type of viewership that it has had? It has grown into a spectacle, probably the biggest event of the offseason, and we’re thrilled that we’re going to have it right here in Chicago.”
The league promises the draft and surrounding events will bring unrivaled exposure to the city of Chicago. Local economist Allen Sanderson says potential benefits fall well short of possible costs.
In Chicago, watch Medill Reports video stories on CAN-TV channel 27