Chicagoans gear up for ‘Draft Town’


Chris Szagola/Cal Sport Media

Eric Fisher, offensive tackle from Central Michigan, poses for a photo with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the 78th National Football League Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York, Thursday, April 25, 2013. The Kansas City Chiefs, who had the 1st pick in the draft, chose Fisher. (Chris Szagola/Cal Sport Media via Zuma Press/MCT)

By Sports & Health Reporter

The 2015 NFL Draft is coming to Chicago April 30–May 2, and the city is embracing what is becoming known as the springtime equivalent of the Super Bowl. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last fall that the 80th NFL Draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, this spring. 

“We are excited to have fans from throughout the Midwest experience the NFL draft,” Goodell said in an Oct. 2 NFL Communications press release. “Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago presented us with numerous ways to enhance the draft experience for our fans and incoming players.”

 The NFL is relocating the draft from New York City’s legendary venue Radio City Music Hall for the first time in a decade. The last time the draft was held in Chicago was in 1964 at the Sheraton Hotel, then at 500 N. Michigan Ave., according to the press release from the NFL.

Howard Schlossberg, an associate journalism professor at Columbia, said the NFL experience in Grant Park will be a boom for the city both economically and from a media standpoint.

“I think it wouldn’t have been here [in Chicago] if Radio City Music Hall wasn’t booked, but it was,” Schlossberg said. “In some respects, we got lucky. In other respects, it’s a chance [for Chicago] to show itself off on national TV one more time. The NFL experience going on in Grant Park will be great for all the people in town.”

In addition, R.C. Fisher, a draft analyst for, said in an email that it was time for a change from the same New York location.

“I am looking forward to the draft held in Chicago,”Fisher said. They should take every prospect to [the] Willis (Sears) Tower and make them walk out on the Skydeck, and film it. If not only to have them stop playing that Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State of Mind’ between every NFL Draft commercial break on ESPN.”

Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward) said this is an exciting time for Chicagoans and an opportunity to promote travel to the city. 

“Roosevelt is an iconic structure in the city,” Fioretti said. “I think people will be very impressed with what the city has to offer.” 

City records show that much of the Grant Park area is reserved for the two weeks, as well as a strip of Congress Parkway between Michigan and Wabash avenues. 

Draft Town will take place in Grant Park, where there will be a free, 900,000 square-foot interactive fan area, including more than 15 football fields, autographs and a Super Bowl museum, NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy said in the Tribune article.

Selection Square, located across from the Auditorium on Michigan Avenue, will function as draft headquarters where news of selected picks will be delivered to fans in real time over the course of the three days. In addition, draft picks will head to Selection Square for interviews in front of the crowds. 

Round one of the festivities will kick off April 30 on Michigan Avenue with incoming football prospects walking the red carpet, while 32 former NFL Legends members—one representing each team—will be on hand for the second round selections, according to the press release.  

Rounds four to seven will be held outside Selection Square, where various teams across the country will announce player picks. Plans also include Buckingham Fountain lighting up with each team’s respective colors as selections are announced. 

The Chicago Bears have the seventh pick in the first round, according to a Feb. 3 NFL Communications press release.

According to Fisher, the Bears will primarily be looking for a pass rusher or defensive end/outside linebacker type of prospect. 

Fisher said in the email he predicts the Bears might go with Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. He said in the email that if Vic Beasley—a Clemson edge rusher—is gone, the Bears may not let Cooper pass them up at number seven. 

“At the same time, another wide receiver to go with Alshon Jeffery is a need and [is] tempting with their No. 7 overall pick,” Fisher said in the email. “Cooper is near guaranteed to be a star in the NFL for years.”

The relocation of the Polish Constitution Day Parade will conflict with draft festivities both time- and location-wise. The parade is a 124-year tradition and is being moved to an alternate route in light of the draft, according to the Tribune article. 

The article also stated that city officials have pledged for no taxpayer money to be used in fundraising the draft and that Choose Chicago, a local tourism agency, will cover all expenses through fundraising. 

“I think that it’s important we do it the right way,” Fioretti said. “I think it will be a good thing to talk to people of the city and embrace what needs to be done. Hotels will fill up, people will be coming from all over to watch the draft. It’s an exciting time for our city as long as taxpayers are not on the hook for it.”

Fisher said in the email that it will be a major economic and status boost for cities to host the draft and its popularity is only beginning for fans. 

“The NFL Draft is like a football version of Comic-Con,” Fisher said in the email. “What was once was an ‘insider’ thing seen for super fans only has now turned into a more mainstream event that attracts massive crowds, celebrities and sponsors. All this NFL Draft information, analysis and drama feeds into America’s love of Fantasy Football as well, which is an industry that has exploded as an economic powerhouse in recent years.”

The Bears organization announced that the team will sell tickets for the draft activities at the Plaza at Park Grill entrance of Millennium Park.

Draft Town, presented by Oikos Triple Zero, will be a free event.

The area will feature interactive elements such as flag football competitions, concessions, player appearances, autograph signings and an NFL Draft shop according to a March 19 press release from NFL Communications.