Grant Park transforming into NFL Draft Town

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Chicago is transforming into NFL Draft Town for a long weekend, and some of the fun is already underway. (WLS)

Chicago is transforming into NFL Draft Town for a long weekend, and some of the fun is already underway.

The transformation of Grant Park to Draft Town is in progress. Organizers say this year's event will be bigger and better than last year. The event will span the size of 20 football fields and will feature even more activities for fans of all ages.

"The idea is to bring fans into the experience and welcome them into the NFL family and have them be a part of the whole draft process," said Meg Cotiguala, Draft Town.

Last year was the first time in 50 years the NFL Draft was held outside of New York. The free, three-day event was considered a huge success and fans are already looking forward to this year's draft.

Many were shopping for gear at the NFL shop at Michigan and Van Buren, like Cherie Nelson visiting from Oregon.

"My kids are very jealous. I have a 14-year-old and 11-year-old that wish they were here. They're big Packers and Seahawks fans," Nelson said.

Of course, one of the big attractions this weekend is to meet and greet players with the NFL.

Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho was signing autographs at the NFL shop and said all the excitement about the draft brings him back to when he first entered the league five years ago.

"I think back to 2011 when I was coming out for the draft, I didn't get invited but just the hype of the draft and also the hoopla. It's exciting," Acho said.

The future of Draft Town in Chicago is uncertain. The success here means other cities are vying for it and it could go somewhere else next year.

"There's talk about moving to Los Angeles because they have a team now. But Chicago football, the Bears, even the team that plays up in Wisconsin, there's a pretty good rivalry here in Chicago," said Nick Pinto, a football fan.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said an announcement on the location of the 2017 NFL Draft will be made in July.

NFL Draft Town runs at Grant Park from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29, then 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. More than 200,000 people attended the event last year, and even more are expected this year.

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