Packers change timeline on NFL draft request
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.