BEREA — The Browns get the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft this week. Next month, they hope to get the entire draft.
In partnership with the cities of Cleveland, Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Browns are a finalist to host the 2019 or 2020 drafts. The league is also considering Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas; and Nashville, Tennessee.
The Ohio group, behind the theme “Bring It Home,” wants the event held in the birthplace of pro football. The draft has grown in popularity in recent years after the league moved it outside New York, its home from 1965-2014.
The league will announce the winning cities for the ’19 and ’20 drafts during its spring meeting in Atlanta from May 21-23. This year’s draft begins Thursday outside Dallas.
On Monday, the Browns revealed some of the proposal it submitted to the league, and team vice president Dave Jenkins expressed confidence in the group’s bid.
“We’re excited,” Jenkins said. “We feel like we’ve put forth a really strong bid that’s extremely competitive with the other cities. The uniqueness of being able to partner with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the fact that professional football was founded here in Northeast Ohio and to have the abilities of probably the greatest sports commission in the country as far as attracting events and executing those.
“When you have a significant amount of out-of-town visitors, there’s no doubt in our mind that we can execute this and give fans in this community an incredible experience.”
Under the group’s plan, Cleveland and Canton would be used throughout the four-day event, kicking off with a dinner at the hall, which is undergoing a $700 million expansion that will transform it into “The Disneyland of football”
The draft’s first round would take place at Cleveland’s iconic Public Auditorium, which just hosted the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the fourth time. Also, the NFL’s Fan Fest would take place in downtown Cleveland, utilizing both indoor and outdoor spaces to accommodate fans from across the country.
One of Cleveland’s major selling points is the city’s recent success in hosting such major events as the 2016 Republican National Convention.
David Gilbert, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission president and CEO, served as the RNC host committee in 2016. He said the convention’s success is proof Cleveland can handle an event of this magnitude.
“We feel very confident that if they choose Cleveland that we are going to deliver in a big way,” he said. “We’re not going to be learning on the job.”
Gilbert estimated that the economic impact on hosting the draft would be comparable to what Philadelphia experienced last year. More than 250,000 visitors pumped nearly $95 million into the local economy.
“I believe from a people standpoint and an out-of-towner standpoint, other than hosting another political convention, I don’t know of an event that Cleveland could host that would have as large of an impact for one event,” Gilbert said.
The next two years are important in league history as the NFL celebrates its 100-year anniversary and its centennial season. As far as the Cleveland/Canton group is concerned, Northeast Ohio is the perfect place for this pigskin party.
“When you look at the whole ‘Bring it Home’, I think it was important when all the groups got together to have one unified message,” Gilbert said. “This wasn’t about just Cleveland, it wasn’t about just Canton. It was ‘how do you unify the tremendous history of the Browns and what it’s meant for many, many decades to Cleveland, along with certainly the 100th anniversary and the Pro Football Hall of Fame?'”
NFL officials recently toured possible sites. Gilbert said they inquired about the city’s handling of the Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA championship parade when nearly 1 million people jammed downtown.
“So that was another feather in the cap,” he said.