In the end, Chicago just had factors that Los Angeles couldn’t contend with: the support of an iconic NFL franchise, a scenic park with a skyline and lake as backdrops for fan events, a famous avenue for a red-carpet showcase and a mayor who’s aggressive in all his pursuits.
All of it played into the NFL’s decision to select Chicago over Los Angeles for its 2015 entry draft – a captivating three-day spectacle for the league with ever-growing TV ratings.
The draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University from April 30 to May 2. The draft had been in New York since 1965 and at Radio City Music Hall since 2006.
“Chicago is pleased to welcome the 2015 NFL Draft to America’s heartland,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Next year, NFL fans from across the country will travel here or tune in as the future of their team is decided in Chicago.”
The Auditorium Theatre’s proximity to Grant Park made it very enticing to the NFL. As part of the deal, the city provides the league access to all outdoor spaces at Grant Park and Congress Plaza. There will be an outdoor fan festival — with free admission — for all three days.
“We are excited to have fans from throughout the Midwest experience the NFL Draft,” league commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We look forward to returning the event to the city of Chicago and working with the city, Choose Chicago and the Chicago Sports Commission to create a week-long celebration of football for our fans.
“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 was searching for a new home for the draft after officials for Radio City informed the league that it would not be available during its desired dates. In July, Chicago became a finalist for the draft, competing with Los Angeles, which doesn’t have an NFL team.
At times, Los Angeles appeared to be the favorite with its Hollywood vibe and myriad venues. But Emanuel was unyielding in his attempts to secure the draft from the beginning. In May, Goodell said “the two most aggressive” mayors vying for the draft were from Chicago and Los Angeles. The persistent lobbying of Bears chairman George McCaskey undoubtedly helped, too.
This won’t be the first time Chicago has been home to what has grown into the NFL’s marquee offseason event. The city hosted the drafts in 1938, 1942 to 1944, 1951 and 1962 to 1964.
Goodell had been considering a four-day draft, but it will remain three days with the first round on April 30. Initial plans call for the top incoming prospects to walk down a red carpet on Michigan Avenue.
“This is going to be great for the NFL and it’s going to be great for the NFL’s greatest fans here in Chicago,” McCaskey told the Bears website. “It’s going to be a very fan-friendly event. We’re going to get people involved. It’s going to be exciting.”