Approximately 600,000 fans attended the NFL Draft in Nashville, smashing the previous record for the event. The Nashville Convention and Visitor Corporation (NCVC) had hoped for around 300,000 visitors but the number far surpassed expectations.
Philadelphia held the previous mark of 250,000 over the three days of the 2017 draft.
“Far outkicked our coverage, our dreams, our thoughts,” said Butch Spyridon, the NCVC president and chief executive. “Way bigger than anything we could’ve imagined.”
“Hard not to give Nashville an A-plus for this draft,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice-president of eventsand club business development.
Spyridon told SportBusiness that he hoped the Draft would raise Nashville’s profile, boost tourism numbers and lead to major sporting and entertainment events in the future – specifically 2026 Fifa World Cup matches, the NHL Winter Classic and the Grammys.
“We see the opportunity that if we do this right that our entertainment footprint and our capacity, along with our capability, will be on a par with the major cities that we know are going to get a game [in 2026],” he said. “We think that we’re worthy of consideration and we think this will further demonstrate that.”
Las Vegas, next year’s hosts, had representatives on hand studying what Nashville did. Twelve other markets had people in the city for tips to improve their own bids to host: Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Seattle.
“I heard a couple cities even discuss maybe pulling their bids, that they don’t think they can top this,” Spyridon said. “I think there’s a new expectation and a new bar, and I’m happy for Nashville to have set that, and let somebody else worry about following up.”
The first round on Thursday gained a combined 11.101 million viewers on ABC/ESPN/NFL Network, which was two-per-cent down from 2018 on Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Network. ABC/ESPN combined to average 9.403 million viewers while NFL Network averaged 1.698 million.