CHICAGO (WLS) --The National Football League is promising the NFL Draft will be "bigger and better" when it returns to Chicago next month.
With over 51 years as the host city, New York built the NFL Draft. But in one year, our city opened the league's eyes to a fan experience like no other, earning Chicago a second opportunity to take the best of last year and make it better.
More than 200,000 fans experienced the NFL's first-ever Draft Town last year - a big reason the league didn't hesitate to return.
"That energy and that enthusiasm that the fans of Chicago showed made all of us, made the commissioner say, let's come back, let's learn from the things that we can do better and give all those fans another free opportunity to experience the draft in a way that had never been done before," said Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's senior vice president of events.
The league and city agreed to expand the draft's footprint, from the gold carpet around Roosevelt Theater to a Ferris wheel built between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, as well as the area in and around Grant Park now covering the equivalent of 20 football fields.
"We saw last year the power of not only our most avid fans coming out and enjoying the draft here in Chicago, but we saw so many families and young people experiencing the draft which is so great, so as we create new elements around this year's draft and Draft Town, i think you will see more elements that engage families and youth," O'Reilly said.
With more space comes more people, making security again an extremely high priority.
"All of the appropriate security measures that we have in place that we would use at the Super Bowl and a festival like this that we would do in a Super Bowl and bring those best practices to Draft Town so fans feel safe," O'Reilly said.
According to the sports commission, hosting the draft generated $86 million in direct economic impact. So, waiving the near $1 million fee to occupy the space is apparently more than worth it.
Artist renderings of what Draft Town will look like are expected to be released soon. The NFL Draft kicks off on April 28.