Excitement builds as NFL draft draws nearer

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The NFL draft will be held at the Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University in Chicago in just two days, and NFL Draft Town in Grant Park is getting its finishing touches.

"We're excited just to see people coming in here," says Peter O'Reilly of the NFL. "The energy on that evening is going to be tremendous."

The excitement surrounding the NFL draft is growing. In Pioneer Court, all 32 team helmets are on display, and already the city is seeing an influx of tourists.

"We've never been to Chicago before so we're excited to see the city and see how excited people are," says Stephanie Poe, who traveled from Texas for the draft.

Tourism dollars are a big part of why the city fought so hard to get the draft to Chicago. With an estimated television audience of 45 million viewers over three days, the hope is the draft will draw future visitors as well.

"We love this weekend," says Mark Lauer of Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. "We love the excitement and we love the energy, but it has much more potential than just a one-time event. It's really showcasing Chicago."

The NFL itself blocked 5,000 hotel rooms for the week, and that doesn't include fans coming in on their own. Restaurants in the vicinity of Grant Park and Pioneer Court also expect to see an increase in traffic

"We're staffed up already for it, we'll be open outside no matter what the weather is," says Andrew Macker of Howells and Hood.

But not everyone is convinced the draft will translate into revenue for the city, saying this isn't much different from the Final Four in Indianapolis where all we really see are the games.

"It's a made for TV reality show," says University of Chicago professor Allen Sanderson. "It doesn't matter where it is. No one will really know where it is."

Economics aside, the three-day fan festival that will, for the first time accompany the NFL Draft is sure to be a big draw to Grant Park. Over 100,000 people are expected to come through. And then there is the draft itself. Former Lafayette College running back Ross Sheuerman is one of the prospects.

"Growing up it was a pretty big dream," Sheuerman says. "Everything is falling into place right now. It's a pretty surreal moment."
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