Bears chairman’s goal: keep NFL Draft in Chicago

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Bears chairman George McCaskey said he hopes the NFL Draft never leaves Chicago | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

George McCaskey made his contribution to the NFL Draft — an assertion, though his tongue was planted firmly in his cheek.

“I promised the commissioner,” he said, “three days of ideal weather.”

The Bears chairman controls neither the clouds nor the roads — he joked we “never have traffic problems in Chicago” either — but knows what his goal will be April 30-May 2, when the draft takes over downtown.

“My challenge to Chicago,” he said, “would be to make it as difficult as possible for the league to move it out of Chicago.”

To keep the event here beyond its one-year agreement, McCaskey said he’ll help the league however he can.

“It’s a league event,” he said Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix. “We’re just going to support it once they make the decisions. Our job is to comply with them, see what we can do to make sure it’s a success.”

He praised Rahm Emmanuel for bringing the draft here, and said he promised to aid both the Mayor and commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell likes the location already — within a comfortable drive for many of the league’s fans.

“Fans will be coming from a broader region,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Obviously, some people attend the Draft every year. We are making it a priority for them, making sure that they are still accommodated. But we have a new opportunity this year, with an outdoor opportunity. “

Until 10:59 p.m. April 5, fans can enter to win two free tickets to the draft at NFL.com/DraftTown. The NFL will give away 2,800 Auditorium Theatre tickets and 1,000 Selection Square tickets for the first two days, and 1,000 square tickets for the third day. The square is located across Michigan Avenue from the theater.

Draft Town, the Grant Park fan festival that will feature food, music and football events, will not require tickets.

“More fans will be able to engage with the draft process. It’s exciting for the fans. It’s great for us. It’s great for our partner.”

Goodell said Chicago’s response “gives us a great deal of excitement” for the event.

“The numbers keep changing about what the expectations are for how many people are going to be there,” he said. “But I think the people of Chicago are going to over deliver. And we are excited.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley

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