GREEN BAY – The Packers have applied to be the host city for the NFL Draft in 2019, 2020 and 2021, President/CEO Mark Murphy announced at the team’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday.
The Packers previously applied for the honors when the NFL first announced that it would be rotating the draft around the country instead of holding it at Radio City Music Hall in New York City every year.
In the end, the NFL selected Chicago to host the 2015 and 2016 drafts. Philadelphia currently appears to be the front-runner for 2017.
While Green Bay might not be able to match the major metropolitan cities in hotels or conference centers, the Packers are hoping to use their history and tradition to entice the league to bring the draft to Green Bay.
“The league is still kind of feeling things out,” said Murphy to reporters after Thursday’s meeting. “I think the league is going to move it around. It really depends on what the priorities are for the league – is it just to generate revenue and room nights? I think we might be at a disadvantage.
“But we’re very unique across the league in terms of the kind of support you have within the community. I think particularly with some of the improvements and changes we’ve made to the stadium, I think that would be good to showcase.”
Murphy went on to mention how the Packers’ Titletown District would be fully operational in time for the 2019 NFL Draft, which coincidentally would come following the team’s 100th season.
The project includes Lodge Kohler, a four-diamond hotel with 134 guest rooms and 10 suites in addition to conference rooms.
In terms of the draft itself, Murphy said the 10,000-seat Resch Center, which sits across Oneida Street from Lambeau Field, could be a possibility.
“Just very preliminary, but I think the Resch Center would probably make the most sense,” Murphy said. “We’ll have some facilities in Titletown that we will be able to take advantage of as well. What Chicago has done the last two years is pretty impressive.
“Obviously there might be some interest, but we’ll see.”
Green Bay also has the 1,000-seat Meyer Theatre downtown and the 2,000-seat Weidner Center on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus.
The application to host the NFL Draft was one of many topics Murphy and other members of the organization covered during their meeting with the 8,200 shareholders in attendance.
Another popular topic was Lambeau Field playing host to its first college football game in 33 years when Wisconsin and LSU square off on Sept. 3.
Murphy is hopeful it won’t take that long to get another college game back to Green Bay.
He pointed toward the growing importance of strength of schedules since the shift to a four-team national championship format as something that could help the chances of Lambeau Field hosting another game in the near future.
One reason LSU agreed to the series with Wisconsin was the game location being Lambeau Field, rather than the Badgers’ home field of Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions,” Murphy said. “We have a great relationship with Barry Alvarez and the entire (UW athletic) department. Scheduling, having done it myself, is fairly complicated. It’s done a year out many years. We’ve had a number of ongoing discussions and we’re hopeful this will not be a one-time thing.”
The Packers also announced the Tundra Tailgate Zone in the stadium parking lot will transition from a seasonal fixture to a permanent promenade in time for the 2017 season.
Murphy noted one contributing factor in the organization’s decision was the number of people who are coming to the stadium without tickets to simply watch games at the Tundra Tailgate Zone.
“It’s been successful and there’s an annual rent for the tent that quite honestly is fairly expensive,” Murphy said. “So to have a permanent structure over time will benefit us, but also just aesthetically having a permanent structure that blends in and looks like it belongs I think will be an improvement.”
One of the most popular announcements of the day was a partnership between the Packers and Patrick Cudahy on a new bacon-themed concession stand.
It immediately was met with cheers.
“I didn’t realize that Patrick Cudahy would get quite the ovation,” quipped Murphy afterward. “It’s a very unique sponsorship and promotion with the bacon-flavored products. I think it’s a credit to the tastes of Wisconsinites. (Food services provider) Delaware North has worked well. They’ve shown a willingness to try a lot of different things. We’re excited about it and hopefully our fans are.”
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