Friday, July 18, 2014

NFL takes the draft off-Broadway

PHILADELPHIA - The NFL Draft is going off-Broadway and
putting New York City's famed Radio City Musical Hall in its rear-view mirror,
at least for now.

The draft is officially moving out of the Big Apple for the first time since
1965, according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who confirmed that the 2015
selection process will take place in either Los Angeles or Chicago.

"We're focusing solely on Los Angeles and Chicago now," Goodell told reporters
in the City of Angels following a media gathering at the Beverly Hilton on

The decision to take the league's most popular offseason television vehicle on
the road makes sense from a pure business standpoint.

A long-term philosophy of moving the event from city to city each spring could
spark a mini Super Bowl-like bidding process which will only create interest
and excitement from the local jurisdictions in play along with a significant
new revenue stream for the league.

The NFL heard from 12 cities this time when they simply broached the idea of
moving the draft out of Manhattan and away from Radio City for the first time
since 2006 because of the venue's crowded spring schedule and lack of
availability on certain dates.

The mechanism for all of this was put into place this year when Radio City
booked a multi-day Easter show (which was actually canceled due to lack of
interest), pushing the 2014 draft back from late April to May 8-10.

Radio City is indeed booked again for the two windows the league was looking
at in 2015 for what could be the first four-day draft -- April 22-25
and April 29-May 2.

"We had 12 cities that were interested," Goodell said. "We felt the best thing
to do was to focus on the three cities (the finalists and NYC), because they
had such a tremendous interest. There are very attractive aspects to each of
those cities. Because we don't have the appropriate dates in May (at Radio
City) our focus is completely on Los Angeles and Chicago."

That narrative here is really only plausible deniability for the league in an
effort to let NYC down easily. In fact the NFL never really seriously explored
other options outside of Radio City despite the fact that there are plenty of
alternatives in and around Midtown.

The Madison Square Garden Company, which operates Radio City, could have
offered up the Theater at Madison Square Garden, which can seat up to 5,600,
a similar capacity to Radio City. The Javits Convention Center, meanwhile,
actually hosted the draft in 2005 after MSG management opposed a new stadium
for the New York Jets so there is a history there.

And if the league is intent on moving the draft to a basketball-sized arena,
the NYC market can offer three world-class options, MSG itself, as well as
Brooklyn's Barclays Center and Newark's Prudential Center, which are all a
stone's throw from Rockefeller Center and Radio City, something the NFL
dismissed because of potential conflicts with basketball and hockey.

A cynic might suggest those same conflicts could be in play for Los Angeles'
Staples Center or Chicago's United Center and the backups in those cities are
not nearly as plentiful, meaning smaller venues would have to be booked.

That said, on the surface, the only real downsides of taking the event on the
road are tradition, media exposure and the overall environment and aesthetics
Radio City offers, which are extremely appealing on television and simply
can't be duplicated by other locales.

"There is no question that New York provides a level of media exposure that
would be hard to replicate elsewhere," an NFL source told the New York Daily
News. "At the same time, there is a question whether Radio City can remain a
long-term host for the event because they are developing new shows and new
things all the time."

The bigger question, though, is whether the league would want Radio City to
remain the long-term host. Once the additional revenue starts rolling in, it's
going to be very hard to pump the brakes and return to the old format even if
Radio City acquiesces and clears its calendar each and every spring.

And if you read the tea leaves, Goodell has already moved on and embraced a
new NFL Draft reality.

"We're talking about different concepts," the commish said, "primarily how to
strengthen the last day and whether we should maybe push that back to the
clubs a little bit more and allow the clubs to have a little bit more freedom
as more of a club day.

"Maybe they would announce the picks from there (homes). We're looking at
everything under the sun because there's a great interest in it and we want to
do something that's more responsive to our fans."
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