Who doesn’t love a good block party?
Philadelphia will be rollicking for the next three days, as 200,000 revelers cram the Ben Franklin Parkway for the National Football League’s first outdoor player draft. Millions more across the country and around the world will tune in to the epicenter of the sports world.
Once again, it is Philadelphia’s time to shine.
It is a major coup for the city, which hosted the first NFL draft 81 years ago. Philadelphia won out because it offers more than a traditional stadium or arena — it offers its iconic Art Museum steps and signature boulevard.
“The steps are the hero here,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president for events. “That was critical.”
Also critical was the Parkway as a dramatic vista for extravaganzas, from the Super Sunday fairs of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s to the Live 8, Welcome America! and Made in America concerts, and Pope Francis’ Mass.
No other city can match it. Staging the NFL festival in a stadium parking lot can’t compare.
Hosting the draft is expected to pump $80 million into the local economy — about the same amount Chicago reaped each of the past two years. Or Philly could surpass it, since the 156,000 fans who registered for 3,000 indoor seats more than tripled Chicago’s sign-up.
Even if revenue comes in under projections, as it did for last year’s Democratic National Convention, the tab will be covered by $20 million from the NFL and $5 million in private funds secured by the city.
And money isn’t the main issue. As Mayor Kenney says, “You can’t put a price tag on the positive exposure the city gets. You can’t quantify the value of that.”
Not that hosting the masses comes without sacrifice. Construction and road closings make it extremely difficult for Fairmount residents to get to and from their homes and park their cars, and for Center City employees and visitors to get around. For them, the NFL Draft Experience means one month of inconvenience and turmoil — much longer than for previous events.
To be a world-class city for everyone, the logistics for future events must be refined to minimize restrictions.
That said, Philadelphia has established a reputation as an exciting place. It is attracting millennials and retirees to live here and companies to do business here. And tourism is one of the city’s main moneymakers. “Leisure and hospitality” was the fourth-largest industry by workforce in 2015.
The city can’t rest on its laurels; it must continue to add to its vibrancy.
How’s this for excitement on a Thursday in April? Catch the Phillies-Marlins day game at Citizens Bank Park, opening day of the annual Penn Relays track-and-field carnival at Franklin Field, or the “American Watercolor” exhibit at the Art Museum, before following the drama of the first round of the NFL draft.
The three-day spectacle is free and family-friendly, giving children and young athletes a chance to punt, pass, and kick on fields lining the Parkway. And they can see representatives of the Eagles and 31 other pro teams phone in their draft picks at the Franklin Institute — then check out Ben’s lightning rod.
No other city can match that.