Next week, the 2017 National Football League Draft will take place in Philadelphia along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as the teams recruit eligible college players.
When the first draft took place at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philly 81 years ago, teams chose players from a list of names written on a blackboard in a meeting room. More recently, this gathering of coaches, players, and sports media is rolled out as a televised sports spectacle, with the flavor of a festival — and tailor-made for sports titans and football fans.
"It's one of the largest annual sports events in the country," said Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports, the marketing and promotions arm for the city for the 2017 draft.
The draft could very well be a three-day football binge for up to 200,000 fans, as free festivities will be held along a half mile section of the Parkway from April 27 through 29. Jumbotrons will pepper the Parkway so families and fans can watch activities taking place in a 3,000-seat theater constructed to include the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Potential draftees will promenade down the steps during the selection process, Needle said. Tickets are required to attend events, including the draft itself, inside the theater.
Needle recalled the moment when he learned of the hosting opportunity.
"It goes back to the summer of 2015 when the Eagles sent us a note saying the NFL is looking for a potential host city. An [request for proposal] came from the league, and they shared it with us, and it started this journey that brought us to today."