GAME ON

WITH MORE THAN 200,000 FANS EX­PECTED TO BLITZ PHILLY FOR THE NFL DRAFT THIS APRIL, THE CITY IS GEAR­ING UP FOR THREE ACTIONPAC ED DAYS. HERE’S WHERE TO KICK FIELD GOALS, HANG WITH THE EA­GLES—IN­CLUD­ING OUR COVER STARS BRENT CELEK AND ROD­NEY MCLEOD—AND MEET

Philadelphia Style - - Contents - BY RISTIN DET­TER­LINE

With over 200,000 fans ex­pected to blitz Philly for the NFL Draft this April, the city is gear­ing up for three ac­tion-packed days. Hang with the Ea­gles—in­clud­ing our cov­ers stars Brent Celek and Rod­ney Mcleod— and meet your foot­ball he­roes.

hiladel­phia is known for many things: for be­ing the birth­place of in­de­pen­dence, its world-class hos­pi­tals and uni­ver­si­ties, an ob­ses­sion with cheeses­teaks, and a fas­ci­na­tion with Rocky.

But lately the city has also be­come known as a hot lo­ca­tion for stag­ing ma­jor events, many of them with global sig­nif­i­cance. In Septem­ber 2015, Philadelphia hosted Pope Francis dur­ing his his­toric visit to the US for the World Meet­ing of Fam­i­lies. Last July, the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion brought a sea of blue and a swarm of celebri­ties to Philly to make his­tory (again) when Hil­lary Clin­ton ac­cepted the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent.

In an­other nod to his­tory, the 82nd an­nual NFL Draft ( draftin phl. com) hits the City of Brotherly Love for three pigskin- packed days, April 27– 29, mark­ing a full- cir­cle mo­ment for foot­ball in Philly: Last held here in 1961, the very first Draft took place in the city in 1936 at the Ritz- Carlton ho­tel. But if you think the town will be turned up­side down the way it was for Po­pead­el­phia and the DNC, think again, says Mayor Jim Ken­ney.

It’s a brisk Fri­day in Jan­uary in­side the mayor’s of­fice at City Hall, where his team, Julie Coker Gra­ham, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Philadelphia Con­ven­tion & Vis­i­tors Bureau, and Larry Nee­dle, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of PHL Sports, have as­sem­bled for a round­table in­ter­view about the Draft. “The pope’s visit was dif­fer­ent be­cause it was so restricted,” says Ken­ney. “The DNC was sim­i­lar be­cause it was also site­spe­cific and the del­e­gates were bussed in and out [of the Wells Fargo Cen­ter]... and then we had peo­ple ex­press­ing their First Amend­ment rights, which was ter­rific, too. This event will be bet­ter be­cause it’s so open and pos­i­tive; it’s not spe­cific to a re­li­gious fig­ure or a po­lit­i­cal party. This is an Amer­i­can thing.”

And the mayor ex­pects Amer­i­can foot­ball fans from all over to be out in full force in Philadelphia, top­ping the more than 200,000 who at­tended last year’s NFL Draft in Chicago. For the past two years, this free pub­lic event has been held in Chicago’s Grant Park, the first venue be­sides New York’s Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall to host the Draft in more than 50 years. Philly’s prime lo­ca­tion along the East Coast cor­ri­dor made it an at­trac­tive dot on the map for the NFL, beat­ing out cities like Dal­las, Los Angeles, and Chicago in a heated con­test. “Philadelphia is mid­way be­tween New York and Wash­ing­ton, DC, and Pitts­burgh is a few hours away,” says Ken­ney. “There are a bunch of big NFL cities sur­round­ing us.”

Adds Nee­dle, “We fully ex­pect Red­skins, Steel­ers, Jets, and Gi­ants fans to make the trip here.” The mis­sion of PHL Sports is to bring top sport­ing events—like the an­nual Army-navy game, NCAA tour­na­ment games, and the 2012 NHL Win­ter Clas­sic—to Philly. “Geog­ra­phy and ac­ces­si­bil­ity were great sell­ing points for the city,” says Nee­dle. “The NFL was re­ally ex­cited about those two as­pects.”

So what sealed the deal be­tween the NFL and PHL? It may have been Philly’s vi­brant arts and cul­ture scene, says ESPN an­a­lyst Ron Ja­worski, a for­mer Ea­gles quar­ter­back and part owner of the Philadelphia Soul, the 2016 Arena Foot­ball League World Cham­pi­ons. Ja­worski, di­al­ing in from a busi­ness trip in Florida for today’s round­table, is the 2017 NFL Draft Host Com­mit­tee Chair, along with co-chair

IF YOU THINK THE TOWN WILL BE TURNED UP­SIDE DOWN THE WAY IT WAS FOR PO­PEAD­EL­PHIA AND THE DNC, THINK AGAIN.

Ira Lu­pert. “When I met with Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell to talk about Philadelphia as a host,” Ja­worski says, “this com­bi­na­tion of foot­ball and the arts was very im­pact­ful be­cause the NFL is look­ing to ex­pand their fan base.”

Tak­ing place along the Benjamin Franklin Park­way, this year’s event will in­clude the first out­door NFL Draft theater, lo­cated on the steps of the Art Mu­seum. Just be­yond will be the fan fes­ti­val known as the NFL Draft Ex­pe­ri­ence, where foot­ball lovers come face to face with NFL le­gends for free au­to­graphs, have their photo taken with the Vince Lom­bardi Tro­phy, and take part in gridiron clin­ics fea­tur­ing agility runs and field-goal kicks. When the draft it­self be­gins, jumbo screens along the park­way will let fans watch all the ac­tion on ESPN. This year’s host fran­chise, the Philadelphia Ea­gles, which sparked the drive to bring the NFL Draft to the city, will be in­volved in many of the events, while draft prospects will par­tic­i­pate in a va­ri­ety of com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives, says Nee­dle. And, of course, there will be tons of pri­vate par­ties.

Dur­ing down­time, the city is bank­ing on vis­i­tors ex­plor­ing neigh­bor­hoods be­yond the Park­way and pa­tron­iz­ing lo­cal busi­nesses. Coker Gra­ham pro­vides the es­ti­mated fig­ures, which are im­pres­sive: $86 mil­lion in eco­nomic im­pact, roughly 40,000 room nights booked, and some 26,000 jobs sup­ported. And the mil­lions of peo­ple tun­ing in to watch—ac­cord­ing to the NFL, an es­ti­mated 8.3 mil­lion view­ers will catch Round 1 of the Draft—will see plenty of Philly’s iconic streets and struc­tures. The value of that? In­cal­cu­la­ble, says Ken­ney.

Adds Coker Gra­ham, “These mar­quee events am­plify our mes­sage that Philadelphia is a great place to visit, re­side, and do busi­ness.”

Con­gress­man Robert A. Brady, call­ing into the meet­ing from Harrisburg, goes even fur­ther: “I think that the Draft will be big­ger than the DNC in terms of eco­nomic im­pact be­cause con­ven­tion vis­i­tors were tied to ho­tels and sched­ules. Peo­ple will be wan­der­ing around and more en­gaged with lo­cal busi­nesses.”

But while eco­nomic im­pact and ma­jor me­dia cov­er­age are im­por­tant, every­one agrees that the key mes­sage is that the NFL Draft is a free, fam­i­lyfriendly ex­pe­ri­ence for sports fans of all kinds. Imag­ine an Ea­gles tail­gate at the Linc only on a much grander scale, says Ken­ney: “There are more women than ever go­ing to games, and ra­cial and eth­nic diver­sity. You see all dif­fer­ent Philly neigh­bor­hoods rep­re­sented-—you can al­ways tell by the mu­sic and food when you walk around the park­ing lot.” Adds Brady, “Every­one is green on game day.”

Philadelphia Ea­gles Brent Celek and Rod­ney Mcleod suit up and get se­ri­ous about life on and off the field.

Home field ad­van­tage: The Philadelphia Ea­gles, who are this year’s host fran­chise for the NFL Draft, first brought the event prospect to the City of Philadelphia.

The Art Mu­seum will loom large at this year’s NFL Draft, tak­ing place along the Benjamin Franklin Park­way. New fan- cen­tric ad­di­tions are sure to make the event the most in­ter­ac­tive yet. New fan- cen­tric ad­di­tions are sure to make the event the most in­ter

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