The NFL has released the renderings for the 2019 NFL Draft, which will be held in Nashville. The event is going to be a fully outdoor event downtown.
Autumn Allison, Nashville Tennessean
Staged in the midst of Nashville’s famed honky-tonks and accompanied by around-the-clock live musical performances, the National Football League’s 2019 draft will be a spectacle like none that preceded it.
Nashville’s top tourism executive for the first time discussed with The Tennessean details of this spring’s NFL Draft, which will resemble a music festival as much as a roster-building event for pro football teams.
The draft will primarily take place April 25-27 at the end of lower Broadway near the Cumberland River. An enormous stage will be constructed at the intersection of First Avenue and Broadway where players will emerge to hug Commissioner Roger Goodell and pose for photos after they are drafted.
Three television networks – ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network – will simulcast all three rounds of the draft. Between television viewers and fans streaming online, the draft is viewed by millions of people.
In Nashville, fans can attend free of charge and claim their spots to watch on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Large viewing screens will be arranged all along lower Broadway and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. President and CEO Butch Spyridon said the expectation is that the crowd will swell to tens of thousands. A crowd of over 100,000 fans is likely.
“We are prepared to go all the way to 5th Avenue,” Spyridon said. “I can’t say this enough, everything is free and open to the public.”
That means honky-tonks like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Robert’s Western World, which have served as the proving ground for future country music stars, will be the backdrop for college football standouts to find out which teams they will be playing for in the NFL.
Draft village, multiple music stages
On the east bank of the Cumberland River adjacent to the Tennessee Titans’ home Nissan Stadium, the NFL will set up a draft village called the NFL Draft Experience with a litany of interactive games, food trucks, and more live music. Just like the downtown side, the draft village is free and no tickets will be needed to enter.
Tourism executives and city leaders are especially excited about the draft because of the way it will put Nashville on display for millions of people. Spyridon said the draft is the biggest entertainment event ever recruited here, and Nashville beat out virtually every other NFL city for the right to host it.
“The NFL Draft will be one of the biggest sports events in the history of Tennessee — another great opportunity for Nashville to welcome the world and show fans, players and media what we’re all about,” Nashville Mayor David Briley said. “We’re looking forward to showing off our city and our unrivaled live music scene to all who attend.”
While honky-tonks will be buzzing with action before, during and after the draft, the event will also feature two stages – one on each side of the river – for live music. Names of the artists who will perform during the draft, including performances during the television broadcasts, have not been released. Spyridon said the lineup would include A-list acts and cover multiple genres to highlight all the best Nashville has to offer.
The NFL chose Nashville because of the city’s ability to mix sports and entertainment, as proven by the Nashville Predators’ Stanley Cup playoff run two years ago, which transformed lower Broadway into a proverbial cocktail of hockey and country music. The league was impressed by the Titans’ uniform reveal party last year, which also took place on Broadway, and featured a showcase of the new uniform designs and live music by the band Florida Georgia Line.
Predators fans packed Broadway as the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last season. (Photo: Joe Buglewicz / For The Tennessean)
On the east side of the river, in the area around Nissan Stadium, the NFL will set up the NFL Draft Experience. The area will include an autograph stage with current players and legends, interactive games including football clinics and a Play 60 Zone for small fans.
The Lombardi Trophy will be on display for photographs, a large merchandise shop will be constructed and a tailgate area will feature both Nashville restaurants and Bud Light Bars.
Nashville boasts biggest draft footprint
NFL teams will set up shop at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which will be closed to the public, where the behind-the-scenes draft operation will actually take place.
“The 2019 NFL Draft represents the largest festival footprint ever created by the NFL where fans will be able to participate in various free and interactive elements within the NFL Draft Experience presented by Oikos Triple Zero,” NFL Senior Vice President of Events Peter O’Reilly said.
The NFL Draft appeals to hardcore football fans because it pairs top college players with NFL teams. Most of the best prospects attend the draft and are featured on the broadcasts. Devoted fans have turned the draft into a year-round event with niche sports reporters and former NFL scouts covering it intensely for a variety of media outlets.
The NFL Network and ESPN broadcasts will provide more nuts and bolts football coverage, while the ABC broadcasts will focus on the human interest stories and local hoopla that surround the draft each year.
Traci Otey Blunt, who works as the NFL’s vice president of corporate communications and is a Tennessee State University graduate, expressed faith that Nashville is the right location to host the draft.
“As a proud graduate of Tennessee State University, I know visitors, fans and future players will enjoy Music City and, while here, experience the many free draft activities and events the NFL has planned throughout the week,” Otey Blunt said.
There are still details to be worked out, such as street closure schedules and how the honky-tonks and other lower Broadway businesses will operate during the event.
Marathon, Parrotheads, possible playoff hockey
Parking information, ride-share dropoff locations and other details will be announced in the coming weeks, the Convention and Visitors Corp. said.
A Jimmy Buffett concert on Saturday night will bring even more fans to downtown. And a Predators playoff game could fall during that week as well.
To help pay for the costs of hosting the draft, the 2019 NFL Draft Organizing Committee, led by Briley, former Gov. Bill Haslam, Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, Titans CEO and President Steve Underwood and Nissan senior vice president for sales, marketing and operations Dan Mohnke has raised $2 million. Those funds come from corporate sponsors and will help defray the costs to the city, Spyridon said.
Fans can enhance their draft experience by visiting www.nfl.com/draft to pre-register for a fan mobile pass, which provides updates on the NFL Draft smart phone app, event information and major announcements.
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Reach Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 and email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @tnnaterau.