TOUCHING DOWN IN VEGAS: Details revealed for NFL Draft on the Strip in April
Snap to, Vegas — we’ve been drafted. In fact, we’re the No. 1 Pick.
Now the details of the April 23-25 2020 NFL Draft — where daily visitation is expected in the stratospheric 350,000 range, topping the approximately 300,000 that New Year’s Eve brings to town — have come into sharper formation. On Jan. 21, Clark County Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve a transportation/mobility plan, as presented by officials of the National Football League and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA, which produces Las Vegas Newswire).
What to expect? Yes, road closures on Las Vegas Boulevard and on Flamingo Road, among other local roads, in early- and mid-April. But also:
Vegas razzmatazz married to NFL prestige.
Marking what is likely to be the grandest day of their lives to date, NFL draftees will be ferried via boat to be introduced and feted on a “red carpet” stage built within the Bellagio fountains for an appropriate level of grandiosity. Touching on all of Vegas’ tourism strengths, three venues — the draft red carpet, the main stage and the NFL “draft experience” — will include live entertainment and immersive/interactive activities, all free and open to the public.
“It’s a global city,” said Marc Badain, president of the Las Vegas Raiders, who are getting ready to play their inaugural season at the under-construction Allegiant Stadium, as they shift from their former home in Oakland. And with the draft, the newest NFL town and draft host benefits from the added exposure of coverage on the NFL Network, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ABC, including two nights of primetime coverage on April 23 and 24.
“The fact that we’re going to have this marquee event, it’s on TV, around 45 million (viewers), that visual with the Bellagio fountains, how can it not attract more fans and more interest?” Badain said about benefits that will flow toward The Raiders. “It’s going to be great.”
Constructing a stage amid the sprays and spritz of Bellagio’s storied fountains? “From a draft perspective, we’ve never built a stage of this size on water, but we’re working with a local company here that has a history of building stages on the fountain. So it’s a challenge, but it’s going to be fun,” said Jon Barker, vice president of the NFL’s Live Event Production.
Staging events outdoors, he adds, is central to the vibe they want to create. “It should feel like a celebration, a festival, a party,” Barker said. “This is the beginning of dreams for these kids. They have worked so hard to get to this point and now they are going to be recognized as some of the best in the world at what they do and it’s up to us to provide a platform to really celebrate. … When Commissioner (Roger) Goodell said let’s take it out of (New York’s) Radio City Music Hall and take it around to fans, this is what he envisioned: Let’s get big, let’s get bold, let’s touch our fans, and the only way to do that is to go outside.”
Constructed next to the new, state-of-the-art Caesars Forum conference center, the NFL Draft Main Stage, using the Strip as its glitzy backdrop, will be the setting to watch — free and open to the public — the first-round draft selections on April 23; rounds two and three on April 24; and rounds four through seven on April 25. Our Raiders will get seven draft picks, including five in the first three rounds, getting picks 12 and 19 in the first round on April 23.
The main stage will also host headlining acts through the three-day event that will swing through the multitude of genres Vegas offers, from Cirque du Soleil to magic to music.
“What we learned last year (from the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville) was the integration of music,” Barker says. “It’s a wonderful way to energize the crowd. You better believe we’re going to have some great headlining performances, but that second stage and then our red carpet stage is also where we’re going to do entertainment.”
Next to the main stage, the NFL Draft Experience is scheduled as a free football celebration, with interactive activities, autograph sessions with NFL players, giveaways, musical performances and the display of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It will be presented by Oikos Triple Zero (Greek nonfat yogurt brand). In addition, NFL draft prospects are expected to make appearances at charity events around the Las Vegas Valley that are still being arranged.
Though he didn’t provide estimates for the expected economic impact on Las Vegas, Barker noted that at each of several previous host cities including Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and, last year, Nashville, the profits have continually topped themselves. In Nashville, which attracted 600,000 people last year over the three-day blowout, the draft set a record, raking in $224 million in economic impact and $132 million in direct spending for the Tennessee city.
For Vegas’ turn, Badain noted that the involvement of local volunteers is critical. “You want the economic impact to hit the community,” he said. “So all the money that will come in from the visitation and the jobs it will create for the event, it will be even more of an economic impact that will hit this city.”
In approving the transportation/parking/mobility plan, county commissioners required that the NFL continue updating the county of strategies as they develop.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a little crowded,” said Steve Hill, CEO and President of the LVCVA. “One of our responsibilities here is to make sure we have the information and get it out to folks,” he said, adding that there will be a website explaining road closures and traffic patterns during the event, as well as parking availability and recommended pedestrian pathways.
Conversations have also taken place with resort partners to maximize visitor enjoyment while minimizing inconveniences. “Our partners in the resort corridor recognize the great opportunity that the draft coming gives them and their businesses,” Hill said. “We need to figure out how to do it right. But there has been huge support for the general concept of the draft.” Hill said he expects the budget for the draft, which he will supply to the LVCVA board of directors in February, to come in at the “$2.5 million range.”
Construction on the Bellagio stage is set to begin on April 8, with two inside lanes fronting Bellagio on Las Vegas Boulevard to be closed from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Flamingo Road from Las Vegas Boulevard to Koval Lane is scheduled to be inaccessible from April 13-16 for 46 hours.
On April 22, expect closure of both north-and-southbound lanes on the Strip from Flamingo to the Paris, and Flamingo to Koval. And Las Vegas Boulevard will be closed all three days of the draft, but will reopen overnight. In addition, the Las Vegas Convention Center and Las Vegas Monorail can provide shuttle service throughout the draft activities areas.
“This is an opportunity that five years ago, this community probably wouldn’t even had thought we could have,” Hill said. “The NFL, The Raiders weren’t on our radar, hosting the NFL draft wasn’t going to happen. It’s something that when I was a kid I wanted to do. I’m thrilled that kids now growing up here are going to have the opportunity to see the draft because I never was able to until this year.
“It really is a great opportunity for all the sports fans in Las Vegas to participate.”
For event schedules and more information about the 2020 NFL Draft, visit NFL.com/2020Draft.
To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.