Nashville’s selection as host city for next year’s NFL Draft could draw tens of thousands of attendees to what has become a sprawling three-day festival, with another 40 million TV viewers potentially catching a glimpse of the city.
Pursued in recent years, and announced Wednesday, the selection was hailed as a milestone for Nashville sports and entertainment.
“The NFL sees that Nashville is really the best place in the country for this kind of event,” said Mayor David Briley. “We have the right venues, the right hotels, the right restaurants, the best music and the one-and-only Lower Broad.”
To land the bid, officials had to show how they handle other big-time events — like CMA Fest, New Year’s Eve, and the NHL All-Star game — and prove that enough new hotel rooms are coming on line.
And a large portion of downtown facilities are likely to be committed to the action, including the Music City Center convention hall, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Ascend Amphitheater, portions of Lower Broad and the pedestrian bridge, and Nissan Stadium.
“As we all know, Nashville has a well-deserved reputation as a city that loves the big stage, loves the big party and more importantly knows how to throw a big party,” said Tennessee Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.
An estimated 400,000 people attended this year’s draft in Dallas for the player selections and all of the surrounding festivities, which include interactive exhibits, autograph sessions, concerts and parties.
City Courted NFL
Despite several visits from the NFL, a raft of details still must be hammered out, including how to share space with the already-scheduled Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, and a potential overlap with a Predators playoff run.
But a key player in the bid effort, Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Convention and Visitors Corporation, said the league has confidence.
“The league noticed Nashville’s ability to get things done and its willingness to … work together — a huge asset for us — as was our reputation for hosting huge events,” he said. “It wasn’t any one thing, it was everything we do every day as a city.”
All-told, Spyridon expects an event budget of $3 million, which will be covered by the private sector, Metro’s special event marketing fund, and the visitors corporation. He noted that special events have put a "burden" on Nashville police, in terms of overtime, and said the corporation plans to give a $100,000 grant to the city to defray some of those costs.
The availability of hotel rooms was also a key question.
“We were able to show them demand, new supply, and make the case that it made a lot of sense,” Spyridon said, “so we feel comfortable with our hotel supply.”
In return, officials expect a large economic impact in terms of spending, especially as the smallest host city ever selected by the NFL.
“I think that this could be the largest NFL related event this country’s ever seen in terms of crowd turnout,” said Titans Team President Steve Underwood. “We do want to reinvent the wheel. We want this to be the best draft the league has ever seen.”