Pack­ers change time­line on NFL draft re­quest

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports - Richard Ry­man Green Bay Press-Gazette USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - WIS­CON­SIN

GREEN BAY – Green Bay will not host an NFL draft un­til at least 2021 be­cause the Pack­ers want to wait for the open­ing of a new Brown County expo cen­ter.

The Pack­ers re­cently pro­vided the NFL with a re­vised let­ter of in­ter­est. Orig­i­nally, the team sug­gested 2019 to mark its 100th an­niver­sary, but de­cided a later date would work bet­ter.

“To put our most at­trac­tive foot for­ward, to have the best as­sets avail­able, makes the most sense,” said Aaron Pop­key, Pack­ers direc­tor of pub­lic af­fairs. “Title­town will be fur­ther along, we’d have the expo cen­ter; things, we think, would play fa­vor­ably to a stronger ap­pli­ca­tion.”

The expo cen­ter would re­place the 59-year-old Brown County Veter­ans Me­mo­rial Arena on South Oneida St. im­me­di­ately east of Lam­beau Field.

Brown County Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive Jeff Flynt said an “ex­tremely ten­ta­tive” time­line as­sumes the expo cen­ter will open in 2022.

“Orig­i­nal plans had the expo cen­ter start­ing con­struc­tion in 2021, and its first full year of op­er­a­tion would be 2023,” he said.

Brown County en­acted a 0.5% sales tax, be­gin­ning Jan. 1, to help pay for the expo cen­ter and other cap­i­tal projects. The Brown County Tax­pay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion has since sued the county, claim­ing the tax is il­le­gal.

Flynt says the county will move for­ward on all projects and tax col­lec­tions un­less a judge or­ders other­wise.

“Should the in­junc­tion of the sales tax and law­suit go against us, that will put ev­ery project in jeop­ardy,” Flynt said. “That would make for an un­cer­tain fu­ture of the Brown County Veter­ans Me­mo­rial Arena.”

Ho­tel rooms seem the big­gest chal­lenge in host­ing the draft, but that de­pends on how many the NFL re­quires and how close they need to be to the event. By the Pack­ers push­ing the re­quest back, the area also would have more ho­tel rooms.

At the end of 2017, the Green Bay metro area had just more than 4,500 rooms and Ap­ple­ton 3,000. About 250 more rooms are sched­uled open in the Green Bay metro area in the next year, and at least one other ho­tel is be­ing con­tem­plated.

As with the Wis­con­sin-LSU col­lege foot­ball game in Septem­ber 2016, it’s not un­rea­son­able to ex­pect some peo­ple to stay as far away as Milwaukee or Madi­son.

“It would be a mat­ter of what the NFL wants within prox­im­ity of Green Bay,” said Brad Toll, pres­i­dent of the Greater Green Bay Con­ven­tion and Visitors Bureau, af­ter he and Pop­key at­tended the 2017 draft in Philadel­phia.

The 2018 draft will be in Dal­las. The league has not an­nounced a site for ’19. The 2016 and ’15 drafts were in Chicago.

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