For the first time in 50 years, the NFL Draft will not be held in New York City. Instead, interested fans, teams, and prospects will have to send themselves into the middle of the country to watch the proceedings unfold in person, as the 2015 NFL Draft will take place in Chicago. Previously, the two finalists had included the Windy City as well as Los Angeles, but holding the NFL Draft in L.A. would have done nothing so much as highlight the fact that the cultural hub of Southern California doesn’t actually have an NFL team of its own (at least, not yet), so we can safely assume it was off the table after “the NFL soured on Radio City Music Hall after it was forced to move the draft back two weeks into May this year,” per ESPN.
Another advantage for Chicago is its historical primacy over anywhere else, as the city has intermittently hosted the draft, especially back in the earliest days of the NFL, when it was primarily a midwestern phenomenon. Would the league have moved the team, in effect taking their ball and going home, had Radio City not rescheduled them this year? Impossible to say — it’s not as if the change in location is significantly less convenient for any of the players or anyone covering the event — and the coverage, which will once again be broadcast on the worldwide leader in sports, as has been the case since the 1980s, will still draw a massive number of viewers.
The popularity of the league continues unabated, which is part of the reason it can get away with eliciting bids from different cities that are involved in the process. For a city like Chicago, who got burned on the 2016 Summer Olympics and has openly courted big, headline gathering events, it’s perfect. We can only imagine what was on the NFL’s list of demands.
If their expectations are anything like the demands they place on Super Bowl cities, we can assume that the league has requested free lodging in the best hotels available, free use of the Chicago Police Department, as many golf courses and bowling alleys as they could dream of, and an army of SNL-esque Bears fans to forcibly silence anyone who utters the phrases “concussion risk” or “domestic violence” in the proximity of the event. We made one of those up, but only one of them.
“Chicago is pleased to welcome the 2015 NFL Draft to America’s heartland,” Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “Next year, NFL fans from across the country will travel here or tune in as the future of their team is decided in Chicago. We look forward to working with the Chicago Bears, the NFL, and our neighborhood partners to make this an event that highlights our world class city and reinvests in our communities.” Emanuel was previously a member of President Obama’s White House before becoming mayor of Chicago, and has spent his whole life in politics. He’s arguably most famous for sending a dead fish to a pollster.