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Persistence pays off

Green Bay awarded the 2025 NFL Draf

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June 1, 2023

GREEN BAY – “Good things come to those who wait.”

Those were the words of Brad Toll, president and CEO of Discover Green Bay, at a press conference last month at Lambeau Field officially announcing Green Bay was awarded the 2025 NFL Draft.

“Many of you probably don’t know this, but we’ve been trying to secure the NFL Draft for many years – dating back to 2016,” Toll said. “It’s been a lot of hard work, so the announcement from the league is spectacular news for Green Bay and the State of Wisconsin.”

The draft announcement was made at the NFL Spring League Meeting in Minneapolis May 22.

The 90th annual NFL Draft will take place in Green Bay inside and around Lambeau Field and the Titletown District.

Officials said the Resch Center Complex – the Resch Expo and Resch Center – will also be utilized, along with other venues within close proximity to the stadium campus.

Last month, the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City welcomed more than 312,000 fans and had more than 54 million viewers over the three-day event.

“The draft has become a prominent offseason event hosted in different cities with spectacular locations across the country, and we’re excited to work with the Packers and Discover Green Bay to bring the 2025 NFL Draft to Green Bay and iconic Lambeau field,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “With the help of numerous local partners on the ground, our prospects and fans will be treated to an incredible week-long experience that shows off the City of Green Bay and the State of Wisconsin.”

Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said the announcement “is the result of years of hard work by our draft committee.”

“Particularly, Gabrielle Dow from the Packers and Brad Toll from Discover Green Bay,” he said. “Their tireless efforts putting together a bid and a plan to host the draft here, as well as the extraordinary support we’ve received from our community partners, has created this unprecedented opportunity to showcase our community. We couldn’t be more excited to host the 2025 NFL Draft. It’s a rare opportunity for Wisconsin to be on a world stage like this.”

// Murphy

The draft is known for bringing together fans from all over the country to celebrate the newly drafted players and the upcoming NFL season.

The festivities will include several days of activities throughout Green Bay and will feature the NFL Draft Experience – a massive free football festival – near Lambeau Field to allow fans of all teams to participate and test their football skills, enjoy interactive exhibits and autograph sessions and take pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The NFL Draft Experience will be open all three days of the event.

More information about the 2025 NFL Draft, including venue information, staffing and volunteer opportunities and other ways to get involved, will be posted as the event approaches on
It all takes money
Aaron Popkey, director of public affairs with the Packers, said hosting a draft will cost about $7.5 million.

“We’ve already pledged $1 million to get things going, and then we are hoping to raise another $4.5 million to get to $5.5 million,” he said. “We’re also hopeful the state will pledge some money. Included in that $4.5 million we hope to raise, the (The Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football) Stadium District has pledged support, and we’ve already got some other donors.”

In terms of potential state aid, Popkey said “I’m hopeful that goes through.”

“We’ve got some leaders in Madison who are excited about this opportunity,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity, so the state support would allow us to maximize the benefit of the event.”

Popkey said he anticipates the excitement of the draft announcement will also help raise more money.

“We have to pay for different things, including waste management, security, promotion, parking and creating a closed campus,” he said.

Dreams turn into reality
Before the NFL began awarding the draft to different cities, it was held in New York City for 50 consecutive years (1965-2014).

In 2015, Chicago broke the streak and hosted two consecutive years.

// estimated 250,000 people are expected to visit the Greater Green Bay area for the 2025 NFL Draft. Photo Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers

“League officials had the great idea to treat the draft like the Super Bowl and move it around the league,” Murphy said. “It was meant for cities who most likely would never host a Super Bowl. In 2016, we started the process to host the draft in 2019 – you can see, we’ve been persistent.”

Murphy said during those early years, several things were missing from Green Bay that are now a part of the landscape.

“We didn’t have Titletown, there was no Resch Expo and the Visitors and Convention Bureau will be up and running (by then),” he said. “Those things are all a part of what got us here today.”

Moving forward, in 2017, Popkey and Toll attended their first NFL Draft – this one in Philadelphia.

“We’ve attended many drafts since then – we wanted to see what it takes to host a draft,” Toll said.

In 2019, an organizing committee was formed.

“That’s when we got serious about hosting,” Dow, vice president, marketing and fan engagement with the Packers, said. “The league told us we are the first NFL team to drive the draft bid process with the league.”

Dow said in January 2020, they were ready to submit the bid to host in 2022.

“The NFL told us they awarded the 2022 draft to Vegas – they were supposed to host in 2020, but then COVID hit,” she said. “Then we tried for 2024 and expressed interest in 2025. The league said, ‘Nope, 2024 is going to Detroit and 2025 is off the table.’ We then set our focus to 2027, but then in January (earlier this year), we got a call from the league saying 2025 was back on the board.”

Dow said she received a call from Murphy May 9 with the good news.

“Mark called me and said, ‘We got it, but we have to wait for ownership to vote on it,’” she said. “My life flashed before my eyes.”

// cornerback Jaire Alexander was drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Rich Palzewic Photo

Dow said they’ve given the NFL suggestions about where to put the draft stage.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the NFL,” she said. “We’d love to have it inside Lambeau Field and utilize that area. The stage is about 100 yards across.”
Economic impact
Murphy said the economic impact “will be enormous.”

“One home Packers game is about a $15 million economic impact (statewide),” he said. “We are anticipating the draft will have a $94 million economic impact statewide. Of that, $20 million will be here in Green Bay – it will benefit the entire state.”
Toll said Green Bay is known as a “drive market.”

“A lot of people drive into Green Bay from the Midwest,” he said. “That being said, looking at the Cleveland draft (in 2021), a lot of people drove into Cleveland. That bodes well for us spreading this event around the state. As people come in, they’ll be filling their cars with gas, eating lunch and staying overnight in cities all over – including Milwaukee and Madison. When the draft is here, it will rock the community.”

Besides the obvious economic impact on the hospitality and restaurant sectors, Toll said many other businesses will also benefit.

“Typically, retail, food/beverage and lodging are the highest spends from visitors,” he said. “Oftentimes, people don’t realize the places people will spend their money at. Case in point – retail. People always ask me, ‘Why would you come to an event like this and go shopping?’”

Toll said when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) comes to the Resch Center in March for the girls’ basketball state tournament, it’s right before prom season.

“The dress stores tell brides not to come in during that week – all the young ladies in town are shopping for prom dresses,” he said. “I guess we’ll probably sell some cheese curds, too… and maybe some Cheeseheads.”

In regards to the possibility of local residents renting their houses out for the week to help alleviate some of the lodging concerns, Toll said “the more people we can keep in our community, the better.”

“Short-term rentals are inspected by the county, and they pay taxes as hotels do,” he said. “If that’s the case, we welcome it. Also, if you have a good driving record, we would like to see Uber and Lyft become a bigger part of the community. Who better to bring people around this community than the people who live here? We’re known for being such nice people, so it will be nice to showcase that.”

Aaron Schuette, Village of Ashwaubenon community development director, said, “it will be a monumental week.”

“It will be exciting to showcase what we have in Ashwaubenon, Greater Green Bay and the whole state,” he said.

Though the actual draft is only three days long, Schuette said it will be about two months of work for the village.

“That includes preparation, the event itself, takedown and getting things back to normal,” he said. “Our first priority is the residents around Lambeau – letting them know which roads will be closed and the activities that will impact their lives. We understand there will be some disruption. In this case, it will take the entire Green Bay Metro area to pull this off.”
A business’s perspective
Kroll’s West, located at 1990 S. Ridge Rd. in the shadows of Lambeau Field, has been at its current location since 1974 – the year Dan Devine was head coach, Chester Marcol was the kicker, Larry McCarren played center and quarterback John Hadl led the team with 1,072 passing yards for the 6-8 Packers.

In 1974, Lambeau Field had a capacity of about 56,000, compared to the more than 81,000 fans who witness games in person today.

“Even thinking about gamedays, it’s nuts,” Julia Nolan, manager at Kroll’s West, said. “Inside and out, it’s packed wall to wall and hard to move around. To prepare for gamedays, we start about five days before the game. We’re getting food and ice bins ready, receiving deliveries and stocking up as much as possible.”

Nolan, who has worked at Kroll’s for 22 years, said gamedays – and gameday weekends – are mandatory for staff.
“It’s all hands on deck,” she said.

Nolan said about half the staff are high schoolers, so getting enough help during the week is harder. 

“It’ll be interesting to see how the draft will go,” she said. “It’s tough for high school kids to work in the middle of the day during the week. We have two years to prepare for this – we will make sure our staff is increased by then.”

Though Nolan said she’s excited about the draft, it also brings some nerves with it.

“I’m excited I work so close to where all the action will be,” she said. “But, as a manager, I’m also nervous about staffing.

// Popkey, director of public affairs with the Packers, said it will cost about $7.5 million to host the draft. Photo Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers

?Turnover (of employees) for many businesses is ridiculous right now – that’s the only thing that makes me nervous. But, I’m more excited than nervous.”
More solutions
Murphy said this draft will be different from previous ones that have been held in areas far more populated than the Green Bay Metro.

“The biggest issue people have thought about is hotel rooms,” he said. “More people will drive a little further compared to other bigger cities.”

Assuming the ice is melted off Lake Michigan, Murphy said there have been discussions about having some cruise ships.

“We’ve also had discussions with Amtrak about the possibility of having train service from Milwaukee,” he said. “We’re working on making it as easy as possible getting fans to Green Bay.”
Local airport impacts
Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB), the official airport of the Packers, is the closest airport to the draft action.

GRB Airport Director Marty Piette said he’s looking forward to what will be the largest event ever held in Northeast Wisconsin. 

“With Packers games, the impact it has on the airport and area, in general, is huge,” he said. “Having the draft will exponentially increase the economic impact for our region – and the airport as well.”

Piette said most gameday weekends are similar, but some team’s fans travel better.

“Typically, about two or three days before a game, we’ll see people starting to come in – they trickle in during the days leading up to a game,” he said. “The day after the game is typically our busiest day – flights fill up quickly, getting people out of town. It even trickles over into two days after the game.”

Piette said the airport works with its airline partners to make sure there are enough flights.

“The airlines look at the number of people booking flights and add more aircraft/bigger planes to accommodate that,” he said. “If the airlines have equipment and crews, they can easily add flights. Being two years out from the draft, I don’t anticipate problems getting what we need in Green Bay (for extra flights).”

During one game last season, Piette said one of the airlines added an extra flight, and it sold out in 15 minutes.

“Regarding the draft, you might see people coming in the Friday before – especially media,” he said. “We might not see additional flights added that early, but the airlines will monitor that. From the airport’s standpoint, this could be a 10-day-long event. Similar to a home game, there will be a mass exodus out of Green Bay after the draft.”

Another local airport – Appleton International Airport (ATW) – will also likely see an increase in passenger travel.

“We typically see an increase in passenger travel the day before a Packers game and the day after, too,” Abe Weber, ATW director, said. 

Weber said with the news that Green Bay was awarded the 2025 draft, ATV is already in the early stages of planning. 

“We’re excited about the potential surge in passengers,” he said. “This won’t only benefit the people who come in for the draft, but it will also benefit the people who live here. We might even see new flights to different hubs added for the draft – with the goal of getting fans and teams here as easily as possible.” 

ATW is currently going through $40 million worth of improvements, so Weber said the timing is “perfect.”

“These infrastructure improvements were necessary to better handle the growth in passenger traffic – both at the commercial airport and the private flight center,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t know the NFL Draft was coming here until (a couple of weeks ago), but we couldn’t have picked a better time to improve things.”

One of the improvements, Weber said, includes a major expansion of the concrete ramp used for aircraft landing and taxing.

“Expanding the airport’s ramp means we can accommodate our increased air traffic, plus larger planes in and out of Appleton,” he said. “A larger plane means we can handle more passengers to more destinations.”

Weber said the improvements won’t be totally completed by April 2025. 

“(But) enough improvements will be completed to make a big difference,” he said. 

Can’t control the weather
This past winter and late spring are good examples of how weather can impact the Green Bay area.

From mid-February through April, Green Bay received about 40 inches of snow – something Murphy said the team isn’t worried about.

“It never snows in Green Bay,” he laughed. “I was chatting with Peter O’Reilly from the league, and I said to him, ‘Peter, what happens if it snows?’ He said, ‘That would be great!’ The NFL has an old saying for people watching games: ‘White means green.’ People love to watch games in the snow.”

Dow said the league has suggested three different dates for the draft.

From mid-February through April this year, Green Bay received about 40 inches of snow. Photo Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers

“I’m assuming they will pick the latest possible date (because of the weather in Green Bay),” she said.

Even with the airports and possible dicey weather, Toll said Green Bay is prepared.

“Who knows how to remove snow better than Green Bay, Wisconsin?” he said. “The airport is accustomed to that. Even during Packers games when it snows, private jets are flying in and out nonstop. We’re probably better equipped to deal with inclement weather than any other (NFL) city in the country.”

The average highs in late April are typically in the upper 50s, with lows in the upper 30s. 

What will the weather be like in late April 2025?

Time will tell.

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