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Green Bay Packers, local officials working to bring NFL Draft to Wisconsin

Landing the draft would bring an estimated $94M in economic impact to the state

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, presents Jaire Alexander with his Green Bay Packers jersey during the first round of the 2018 NFL football draft
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, presents Jaire Alexander with his Green Bay Packers jersey during the first round of the 2018 NFL football draft, in Arlington, Texas. Green Bay is trying to bring the event to the city in either 2025 or 2027. David J. Phillip/AP Photo

The Green Bay Packers are once again trying to bring the NFL Draft to Wisconsin in either 2025 or 2027, and the organization feels good about its chances.

That was the message from Aaron Popkey, director of public affairs for the Packers, when he spoke to the Green Bay Common Council Tuesday night.

Popkey said teams have to be invited by the NFL to apply to host the draft, and Green Bay has been invited. He called the prospect of hosting the event “very possible.”

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After being held in New York City for 50 years — from 1964 through 2014 — the draft has gone on the road in recent years, being hosted in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Nashville and Arlington. But Green Bay is the smallest market in professional sports.

“Part of our work with the NFL is convincing them that we are able to put this on,” Popkey said. “I think there’s a romanticized view of Green Bay — richly deserved in terms of the history and tradition of pro football here. I think the NFL knows that that would be part of the draft story in bringing the draft to a community that has the history.”

Despite the Packers being a small-market sports team, Brad Toll, chief executive of Discover Green Bay, said the greater Green Bay area has the capacity to hold the NFL Draft.

During its final eight years in New York, the event was held at Radio City Music Hall, which has a capacity of a little over 6,000. Toll said the Resch Center in Green Bay has a capacity of around 10,000.

Toll said Discover Green Bay and the Packers have been working together to bring the draft to the area since it left Radio City. Both organizations have sent representatives to the NFL Draft in recent years to learn more about what hosting the event would entail.

“We’re quite confident that Green Bay could certainly do it, and we’ve been putting bids together,” Toll said. “It’s a competitive process — like bidding on a convention or soccer tournament. There’s a lot of cities that would love to host.”

The Green Bay Common Council unanimously approved community leader agreements for 2025 and 2027, which are documents that tell the NFL the community is serious about hosting the draft. The Packers and Discover Green Bay aren’t looking at 2026 because Lambeau Field will host the Wisconsin Badgers football game against Notre Dame that year.

Brown County has already approved the agreements and the village of Ashwaubenon will consider approval later this month, Toll said.

Fans in Packers gear drink beer at tables set up near the stadium.
Packers fans sit in the Titletown District in Ashwaubenon before a preseason home game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022. Angela Major/WPR

Since the draft has gone on the road, Popkey said it has become one of the NFL’s tentpole events where the league celebrates the game and its fans. Others are the Super Bowl and the NFL Combine.

“For us — we in Green Bay that is — this would be our opportunity to have one of these types of events,” he said.

Hosting the NFL Draft would be a major boon for not only Green Bay, but the rest of the state as well, Toll said. He said the event would have an estimated economic impact of about $56 million in direct spending and $94 million in total impact. That includes impacts to the greater Green Bay area, all the way down to Milwaukee.

“A good part of our hotels will actually be already occupied by the NFL,” Toll said. “A lot of the fans that are coming in from around the country and literally around the world, they’ll be staying everywhere from Green Bay to Milwaukee.”

Hosting the NFL Draft would also benefit everything from restaurants to retail, Toll added: “There’s really not too many areas that aren’t touched when you have a huge event like this coming in.”

Popkey said Green Bay’s main competitor in trying to host the NFL draft in 2025 or 2027 is Washington, D.C. While Detroit has expressed interest, it’s slated to host the draft in 2024. Other cities that have hosted the draft since 2014 have also expressed interest.

“Some other cities continue to express interest but, formally, it’s ourselves (and) it’s Washington right now,” he said.

Aside from the economic benefits associated with hosting the draft, Toll said it would help put the Green Bay area on the map for other national events.

“It really helps us attract additional business into the community,” he said, “and it’s really a source of pride to be able to host an event of this magnitude.”