NFL fans to get ‘Rocky’ ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing draft week­end

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY ROB MAADDI

PHILADEL­PHIA | Yo, Roger, they did it.

When the NFL chose Philadel­phia to host the 2017 draft, it quickly be­came clear one of the world’s most fa­mous movie lo­ca­tions would be the per­fect site to hold the three-day ex­trav­a­ganza.

“We had talked about a cou­ple dif­fer­ent venues for the NFL and they wanted the Rocky steps and they wanted the Art Mu­seum,” Philadel­phia Mayor Jim Ken­ney told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “So that’s what we gave them. It will be a ter­rific event.”

Per­haps NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell will run up the fa­mous steps be­fore an­nounc­ing the No. 1 pick. Those same steps im­mor­tal­ized by fic­tional hero Rocky Bal­boa 41 years ago will serve as the back­drop for the elab­o­rate stage, in­clud­ing a 3,000-seat, open-air the­ater, be­ing con­structed along the Ben­jamin Franklin Park­way for the NFL’s first out­door draft. The free event is be­ing called the largest fan ex­pe­ri­ence ever pro­duced by the NFL. More than 200,000 peo­ple are ex­pected to visit the half-mile area next week to en­joy the fes­tiv­i­ties. The first round be­gins Thurs­day night.

“There was no bet­ter way to high­light the city of Philadel­phia than to show­case some of its most iconic venues — from the Ben­jamin Franklin Park­way, to the Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art, to the Franklin In­sti­tute,” NFL spokesman Kamran Mum­taz said.

Some tourists and res­i­dents in the area have been grum­bling for weeks about the lack of ac­cess to side­walks and roads, and about the gi­ant stage block­ing most of the iconic “Rocky” steps. Vis­i­tors won’t be able to run up those steps and raise their arms tri­umphantly at the top the way Sylvester Stal­lone did in the movie, but they could walk up the steps from the side and they can visit the Rocky statue at the bot­tom.

Joaquim Mar­quet, of Va­len­cia, Spain, came down to Philadel­phia from New York City just to run up the steps Thurs­day.

“It was the one thing I wanted to do,” the 32-year-old said. “(It) was a bit dis­ap­point­ing, but I un­der­stand you can’t stop ev­ery­thing just for tourists.”

There will be a ton of other, fun ac­tiv­i­ties for vis­i­tors in­side the NFL Draft Ex­pe­ri­ence, which stretches the length of 25 foot­ball fields.

One of the in­ter­ac­tives in­cludes an op­por­tu­nity for fans to test their 40-yard dash time against play­ers. Adults and kids can kick field goals, run through ob­sta­cles or try the new 100-yard zip line.

“I will not be on the zip line, but I’m sure the more ad­ven­tur­ous will be lined up for it,” Ken­ney said.

Those who pre­fer to stay on the ground can get au­to­graphs from cur­rent and for­mer play­ers, take pic­tures with the Vince Lom­bardi Tro­phy and much more. Fans out­side the the­ater can fol­low the draft on gi­ant tele­vi­sion screens.

“The NFL is re­ally en­gaged in the fan ex­pe­ri­ence process,” said Julie Coker Gra­ham, Pres­i­dent and CEO of the Philadel­phia Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bu­reau.

The City of Broth­erly Love is get­ting used to ma­jor events. Philadel­phia hosted the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion last sum­mer and Pope Fran­cis in 2015.

“We cer­tainly do big events well,” Coker Gra­ham said. “But to have the NFL choose us, our city, Philadel­phia and then to choose the Ben­jamin Franklin Park­way, and the iconic steps of the Art Mu­seum is kind of a dream come true.”

The 82nd NFL draft is re­turn­ing to its birth­place for the first time since 1961 and 11th time over­all. On Fe­bru­ary 8, 1936, the first NFL draft was held at Philadel­phia’s Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

NFL draft vis­i­tors won’t be able to run up the steps of the Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art dur­ing the three-day draft ex­trav­a­ganza, but they can visit the Rocky statue.

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