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The NFL Draft: ‘Green Bay’s Super Bowl’

Packers, Discover Green Bay, surrounding municipalities bidding for future NFL Draft

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November 3, 2022

GREEN BAY – Ninety million dollars certainly has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

According to Brad Toll, Discover Green Bay CEO, that is the estimated statewide economic impact if the National Football League (NFL) Draft comes to Titletown in the next few years.

“Since we’ll probably never host a Super Bowl in Green Bay because of the unpredictable weather, getting the NFL Draft would be our Super Bowl,” he said. “There’s not another event we could host that would likely be any bigger. When we pitched the idea to the NFL, that’s what we said – it would be huge for the Green Bay community and the entire state.”

From 1964 to 2012, the draft was held in New York City.

Since then, it has been awarded to various NFL cities around the country.

It was held in Las Vegas in 2022, Kansas City was awarded the 2023 draft and Detroit will host it in 2024.

“The Packers are excited at the prospects of hosting the draft,” Aaron Popkey, Green Bay Packers director of public affairs, said. “We’re the (leader behind the bid) because we have a relationship with the NFL, but we’re working closely with many other organizations, including Discover Green Bay. We’ve done our due diligence and have sent members of our team to other drafts.”

Popkey said the draft would be a huge undertaking to host, but it would be worthwhile.

“All those involved have a good sense of what it would take to host the draft,” he said. “It could be the largest event of its kind we could ever hold – in terms of how many people would come and the economic impact it would have.”

Popkey said as an organization, the Packers are committed to hosting one big event – outside of its own games – at Lambeau Field each year, which is why playing host to the draft in 2026 is out of the question.

“In 2026, we’re hosting the Wisconsin-Notre Dame football game,” he said.

Popkey said the Wisconsin-Notre Dame game was originally scheduled for 2024, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it out to 2026.

He said in the past, Lambeau has been host to other college football and hockey games, music concerts and this past summer’s soccer match between Manchester City and FC Bayern Munich.

“In this case, our ‘special event’ would be the draft,” Popkey said. “We’d most likely be using a lot of Lambeau Field’s facilities to do it. In terms of staffing and what we ask our team to do, one large event per year is something we plan for and feel comfortable with.”

Popkey said they were hoping 2024 would be awarded to Green Bay, but once that didn’t happen, they focused on 2025 and 2027.

“We’re hearing ’27 would be the most likely, but ’25 is still a possibility,” he said.

There’s a cost
In order to host the draft, Popkey said money – north of $6 million – needs to be raised.

The Packers have pledged $1 million in operational support, while the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District is pledging 50% of present and future district revenue from events held in the stadium bowl from 2022-26 – with a cap of $1.2 million – until the 2027 draft is awarded.

// Popkey said the Packers and Discover Green Bay are interested in hosting the 2025 or 2027 NFL Draft. Because the Packers are hosting the Wisconsin/Notre Dame game at Lambeau in 2026, that year won’t work to host the draft. Evan Siegle/Green Bay Packers Photo

“The cost varies by location and where it’s staged,” Popkey said. “The organizing group is responsible for raising all the funds to host, so that’s why we’ve had this ongoing discussion with the local communities. Municipalities will do what they can do in terms of budgeting with police, fire, public safety and the department of public works – you’re talking about shutting down streets for long periods.”

As a gauge, the 2023 draft in Kansas City will take place over three days – Thursday through Saturday – April 27-29.
Popkey said the money raised to host a draft “makes it all happen.” 

“There’s staffing, shuttles, food, insurance, weather contingencies and staging,” Popkey said. “If you’ve seen the draft, you’ve seen the big stage set up. All those costs are funded by the local organizing community – in this case, the Packers and Discover Green Bay. Besides us and the Stadium District pledging money, we have a handful of other organizations who have committed. The Packers’ $1 million pledge is beyond investing from a facilities standpoint.”

Popkey said Brown County is also doing some in-kind work with the Resch Center Complex to see what they can do.
Long-term commitment
Patrick Webb, executive director of the Stadium District, said the organization knows what a huge deal a draft in Green Bay would be and is committed to helping.

“Our board put a restriction on saying (the draft) had to happen by 2027 for us to commit the money, though,” he said. “We don’t want to hold money for anything further into the future if we don’t have to. What some people might not understand is, we give lots of funds to various groups in the area.”

In a document sent to The Business News, the Stadium District has granted monies to several organizations over the years, including the WIAA Girls State Basketball Tournament at the Resch Center, Tall Ships, Cabella Fishing, the Meyer Theatre, the Neville Public Museum, Bay Beach and the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

“The soccer match at Lambeau (July 23) brought in more than $567,000 to the district – half of which will go toward the $1.2 million pledge,” Webb said. “From the district’s standpoint, it gives the team and the community incentive to have those events in the bowl. The LSU/Wisconsin football game (in 2016) had a huge impact (almost $913,000). You get a double benefit – not only would the Stadium District put money toward the draft, but the events themselves have a huge economic impact.”
Discover Green Bay
One might think Northeast Wisconsin would be the only area to benefit from the draft coming here, but Toll said the impact would be statewide.

“Because it’s over the course of several days, I could see people staying as far away as Milwaukee and Madison in hotels,” he said. “Many times, people coming in will make a vacation out of it, so there’s a good chance they’ll take in other area attractions. Fans from all 50 states and several countries would be represented.”

Toll said unlike a Packers’ home game, which has an estimated $15 million impact, where nearly everyone has a ticket ahead of time, a potential draft would be different.

“You don’t need a ticket to attend,” he said. “I would expect it to be extremely popular.”

If Green Bay gets the draft, Toll said the benefits could be felt for many years to come, “because this would likely be the biggest event we’d ever hold here.”

“If we can pull it off effectively – it would help prove even more to other event organizers to come here,” he said. “It would be impressive to say we hosted an NFL Draft.”

Toll said the $90 million impact is a “conservative estimate.”

“We’ve talked to other cities around the country who have hosted, and it’s been well above that,” he said. “We tend to be a bit more conservative in our estimates. It wouldn’t be cheap to host the event, but the return on that investment would be huge.”

Though the competition is tough, Toll said all those involved are optimistically confident they will get the draft.

“If you look at the other 31 NFL cities, we are by far the smallest market to be throwing our hat in the ring,” he said. “I’d say we might be considered an underdog in that regard, but with our history and tradition, the NFL is likely very interested. We’re certainly pulling on (our history and tradition). With such a huge economic impact, every community wants an event like this. I know we’d do a good job.”
Other local impacts
Aaron Schuette, community development director for the Village of Ashwaubenon, said he’s excited at the thought of the draft coming here, especially with Lambeau Field in the village’s backyard.

“Larger cities tend to forget about this, but in the Green Bay area, you can mostly drive to where you want in 20-30 minutes,” he said. “People say we might not have the infrastructure or enough hotels (in the immediate area), but for example, if you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you’ll be driving for an hour. Within an hour of Green Bay, we have a ton more hotels – in the Valley, the Lakeshore, Door County. There’s a wealth of opportunities to stay in the area, especially within an hour of Green Bay.”

// running back A.J. Dillon was a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Boston College. Rich Palzewic Photo

Besides the more popular attractions people would visit – Lambeau Field, the Titletown District, the downtown area, golf courses, shops, restaurants, outdoor recreation, etc. – Schuette said many smaller entities would also benefit.

“People come to Green Bay for experiential opportunities,” he said. “They’ll take in the more popular things the area has to offer, but they want to know more. The National Railroad Museum (in Ashwaubenon) and the Mulva Cultural Center (in De Pere) will benefit. Even something as small as the Ashwaubenon Historical Society would see an increase. It’s finding those things above and beyond the Green Bay Packers. Maybe someone will come here and see all the area has to offer and relocate.”

Schuette said he has no inside information about whether the draft will come to Green Bay, but he has a good feeling.

“I’d say there’s a decent chance it will be,” he said. “As for the Village of Ashwaubenon’s role, it’s more about the services we’ll need to provide to help support the event – certainly from our public safety. There will be some stress on that department, but we’re used to that (because of Packers games). We need to start thinking about things now.”

Barb LaMue, president and CEO of New North, the regional economic development nonprofit fostering collaboration among the 18 counties of Northeast Wisconsin, said the draft would be similar to another event that came to Wisconsin last fall.

“It’s like when the Ryder Cup (men’s golf) came to Sheboygan – that economic impact was felt all over Northeast Wisconsin,” she said.?

LaMue said New North is “highly supportive” of the draft coming to Green Bay.

“Having the opportunity to host the NFL Draft will bring in thousands of people from across the globe and bring more notoriety to the area,” she said.

The next steps
Popkey said the bid to host the NFL draft, in some respects, is a standing bid.?

“We’ve expressed our interest in multiple years,” he said. “What we’ll do is update our bid based on changing information – maybe additional venues or hotels become available. It’s a fairly detailed report.”

Popkey said sometimes, the NFL will also update its specifications, inturn prompting the Packers to update its.

“As more information becomes available, it can impact your chances,” he said.

Popkey said the Packers also do regular check-ins with the NFL organizing team that oversees the draft.?

“We speak with them on all kinds of events, not just the draft,” he said. “For example, we were in constant discussion with them about our London game (earlier this season).”?

Popkey said there’s not necessarily a set schedule for when the NFL announces who is awarded the draft, but he expects to know more next spring.

“There are March and May meetings the NFL holds,” he said. “I’d expect to hear this spring about the 2025 draft – sometimes they announce multiple years. That’s the soonest we’d potentially hear.”

Popkey said there is a change the NFL won’t announce the “winner” of the 2025 draft next spring.

“But I’d think they would make the announcement for planning purposes,” he said.

If the Packers aren’t awarded the 2025 draft, Popkey said the team would then have to wait until probably the spring of 2024 or 2025 to see if 2027 is a possibility.

For now, it’s a wait and see game.

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