NFL Draft Town opens in Grant Park

EMBED </>More News Videos

The gates to NFL Draft Town opened around noon Thursday, and admission is free. (WLS)

Football fans are expected to flock to Grant Park over the next three days. The gates to NFL Draft Town opened around noon Thursday, and admission is free.

About 19,000 square feet have been set up for the three-day football festival. Fans can play interactive games, kids can participate in football clinics and NFL stars will be signing autographs.

"We made Draft Town bigger and better. More things for kids and families," said Peter O'Reilly, NFL Senior Vice President of Events.

But will the cold and windy weather keep fans away from this outdoor fun-fest?

"We'll be OK. This is football weather. We know Bears fans and Midwesterners are used to coming out and enjoying football in all weather. So we're looking forward to the next few days," said Matt Shapiro, NFL Director of Events Strategy.

A fan favorite is the 40-yard dash, where people can test their speed against a football player on a huge led screen, and the vertical jump, which is set up just like it is in the scouting combine.

In the NFL Pro Shop, fans can personalize jerseys in real time. If their favorite player gets picked, they can have their jersey made in no time.

This is the second time Chicago gets to host the NFL Draft, which begins at the Auditorium Theatre around 7 p.m. Thursday. Fans will also be able to watch the draft live at Selection Square, steps away from Buckingham Fountain.

"In Draft Town, we've got screens everywhere. You're not going to be able to miss it. Don't be afraid you're going to miss a second of the draft," O'Reilly said.

The city expected to get a $100 million economic boost from playing host. Nearly 200,000 fans took part in the draft last year. Most of them were visitors.

"No other city knows how to put on big events that you want and no other city can give you football weather in the middle of April," Emanuel said.

The NFL said it loves Chicago, but hasn't committed yet to coming back a third year in a row.

And have you ever wondered where prospective players get their finery for the best dressed night in football? A bespoke tailor in the West Loop is a popular choice for many.

EMBED </>More News Videos

Where do you get your suits when you're preparing for the best dressed night in football? A bespoke shop in the West Loop, for some.


Street closures are in place and the CTA is adding extra service for the NFL Draft Town Fan Festival, which takes place downtown Thursday through Saturday.

Residents near Grant Park should expect traffic delays, according to the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Congress from Michigan to Columbus, including sidewalks and the Columbus Circle, will remain closed until Monday, according to the OEMC. Columbus from Jackson to Balbo, also remains closed until Monday. Westbound Balbo from Columbus to Lake Shore Drive, will remain closed to traffic until Friday, May 6.

Michigan from Jackson to Balbo, will close between 3-8 p.m. Thursday and again between 3-8 p.m. on Friday to accommodate the red carpet introduction featuring NFL legends and top college prospects.

Between May 3-6, eastbound Balbo will be closed for event cleanup, according to OEMC.

The CTA is adding extra service for fans to make their way to Draft Town, but is also warning of planned construction.

Longer trains will run along the Blue, Red, Brown and Orange lines on Thursday and Friday, according to the transit agency. On Saturday, longer trains will run on the Red, Brown and Orange lines between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Red Line trains will also run more frequently between 11 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Twelve downtown bus routes will be temporarily rerouted due to Draft Town, including the No. 1 Bronzeville/Union Station; No. 3 King Drive; No. 4 Cottage Grove; No. 6 Jackson Park Express; No. 7 Harrison; No. J14 Jeffrey Jump; No. 26 South Shore Express; No. 28 Stony Island; No. 126 Jackson; No. 132 Goose Island Express; No. 143 Stockton/Michigan Express; and No. 147 Outer Drive Express.

Additionally, Blue Line trains will bypass the Montrose station over the weekend and Green Line trains will not serve five stations due to planned work. Free shuttle buses will run in the affected areas.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
sportsnfl draftChicago - Loop
(Copyright ©2016 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

Load Comments

More nfl draft

More Sports

Top Stories
Show More